The Importance of IT Modernization for Government Agencies

Sanjay Gupta, CTO of the Small Business Administration, shares the progress that’s been made in IT modernization efforts within federal agencies and beyond.


Air Date: February 2, 2022

Moderator: Jordan Crenshaw, Vice President, C_TEC, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Sanjay Gupta, Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Small Business Administration

Sanjay Gupta began his role as the chief technology officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in 2017. Since then, Gupta has pushed for IT modernization within the SBA and has worked to help all users gain better access to services.

Leading the SBA’s journey to use more technologies, Gupta has played an instrumental part in IT modernization efforts. During the Chamber’s TecTalk series, Gupta discussed the importance of IT modernization efforts including the Technology Modernization Fund and digital transformation within federal government agencies.

IT Modernization Benefits During Pandemic Supply Chain Delays

When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted industries worldwide, Gupta’s modernization efforts put the SBA at an advantage.

“Right around the time of the pandemic, in the March and April timeframe of 2020, the global pandemic had wreaked havoc on a global supply chain,” Gupta said. “Laptops were not easily available and there were long delays in making those available once you ordered them.”

After he surveyed his employees and found they had the personal laptops and other resources available to work from home, his team quickly transitioned to the SBA’s cloud-based virtual desktop environment that Gupta previously set up.

“We gave them a secure link to connect into our environment and they were immediately productive,” he continued. “We were able to ramp up the staff, which was obviously very important for our mission delivery.”

The team scaled exponentially to meet demands throughout the pandemic and “respond to the nation's largest economic recovery unit,” Gupta said.

Driving Change Through the Technology Modernization Fund

Serving on the Technology Modernization Board, Gupta is part of a team that oversees the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) that provides loans to government agencies to assist them with modernization.

TMF was authorized in 2017, and “provides sustained and committed funding over multiple years” by supporting approved projects incrementally to ensure success, said Gupta.

In March 2021, TMF received a $1 billion infusion which allowed it to change payment terms for the better, moving away from a loan model.

“We relaxed our payment terms for a variety of reasons, including the fact that most agencies were gearing up for the COVID response in one way or the other,” Gupta explained. “We also wanted to see the modernization be accelerated. We have a little more flexibility now in the current version of the TMF. The agency has a little leeway in being able to repay … a partial amount.”

Incentivizing Federal Government Agencies to Modernize

Being at the forefront of change, Gupta understands hows federal government agencies can be incentivized to modernize. He described how modernized businesses were better off in the early days of the pandemic.

“In areas where we had a modernized foundation, we were able to respond much more nimbly, or in an agile fashion, and address it really quickly,” Gupta said. “But in some cases, we still had the traditional architectures, and those were a little more difficult to adapt or pivot too quickly.”

He continued addressing the importance of cyber security for organizations both big and small.

“Cybersecurity could have a debilitating impact on your organization's ability to survive,” Gupta warned. “Traditionally, we have seen the IT houses that are not as modern as they need to tend to have a higher degree of vulnerabilities from a cyber-security standpoint.”

Shortening Modernization Times Requires Various Elements of Change

Technology itself isn’t usually what takes a long time to change and modernize – it’s that you need a “combination of organizational change, cultural change, and all the business process changes to go hand in hand with the technology changes that you're trying to introduce,” said Gupta.

“Often it is the organizational change elements, the cultural change elements, the human elements – those are the longer-lead items,” Gupta explained. “It's a balanced approach where you take the people side of things, the process side of things, and the technology side of things, and we combine them to deliver the transformation.”

“You can accelerate technology implementation in of itself, but my experience has also shown that those necessarily are not sustainable if you don’t have the corresponding organizational culture, and the business process and policy changes that need to go along with it,” he added.

To accelerate IT modernization, Gupta suggests making changes at the policy and organizational level.