Practices for Improving the Coordination of Information Technology and Transportation Systems Management and Operations Resources: A Reference Document
Chapter 4. Applying Information Technology and TSMO Interaction Principals to Emerging Issues
Powered by an increased focus on performance management, TSMO has become a major formal program element in State DOTs. As documented throughout this report, the role of IT in TSMO is becoming ever more pervasive as the extent and complexity of information technology in TSMO strategies increases. Agencies are integrating TSMO strategy applications into a widespread, complex, and dynamic system that depends on:
Taken together, these systems make heavy demands on IT-related resources including hardware maintenance, software support, IT network management, and communication media knowledge. There will be an increasing need for expertise in issues related to procurement, security standards and practices, and system maintenance. These demands and needs are reflected in the full range of challenges discussed in chapter 3.
As described in chapter 2, the last 10 to 15 years have seen the first initiatives to integrate the concerns of IT into TSMO at different levels and follow different paths, reflecting differences among transportation programs and statewide IT policies. The lessons learned are mirrored in a wide range of practices in response to challenges experienced.
However, the state of play described in this report represents a simple snapshot in time. The TSMO and IT domains are both subject to rapid technology change, complicated by the evolution of the institutional environment.
TSMO technology and applications—Much of the systems and technology of tomorrow in which TSMO relies significantly on IT is already visible in the more advanced agencies. At the time of this publication, many products and services are in development phases or limited pilot applications to test the viability and business need. These emerging technology and application trends include:
Not only is the technology complex, so are the applications, products, and services often involving non-infrastructure components and external players, both public and private, including:
IT focus—Information technology is an increasing component across the full range of governmental agencies—not just transportation—and their functions, which include improving the business processes of State agencies to increase their effectiveness and efficiency, ensuring cost-effective value driven IT-related asset investments, and supporting data and information security standards.
TSMO and IT intersect across each of these functions. However, as noted in chapter 2, the TSMO domain has several unique characteristics that call for custom tailored accommodation regarding system availability, data governance, procurement, security, and system maintenance.
IT-TSMO institutional relationships—Just as TSMO and IT technologies are evolving, so too are the relationships between the TSMO and IT domains, including business and technical processes and supporting institutional arrangements. As documented in this report, there is no standard approach to integrating IT expertise into TSMO program activities. Approaches range from using transportation agency dedicated IT staff to relying on a separate State agency and every level of integration in between. Each of these approaches offers differing opportunities to recruit qualified staff, stay current with the latest technology, leverage respective skill sets, and gain advantages in procuring and maintaining IT infrastructure.
A long-term perspective—Many of these emerging technologies have not gained mainstream adoption. In addition, coordination, communication, and organizational practices are in early stages of development and vary widely across States.
As indicated in the research and agency outreach efforts that formed the basis of this publication, there is a modest inventory of practices that in themselves do not yet reflect long-term or widespread experience or feedback on these systems. This is especially true in the “cutting edge” areas of new systems and technologies.
As early adopters become more experienced and more agencies deploy the technology, there will be more insight and practices to assist the IT and TSMO communities. In the interim, many of the practices identified by agencies in chapter 3 help to prepare for unknown future technologies and applications.
Fundamental principles to ensure sustained coordination—Notwithstanding the evolving nature of technology and institutional configurations that affect the relationship between the TSMO and IT domains, the experience to date suggests that several “technology-neutral” core principles can be used to form a solid foundation for IT and TSMO collaboration ahead of emerging technologies or to address challenges encountered when implementing emerging technologies. Whether agencies employ these practices preventively or in real time, the key principles strengthen the working relationship between the groups and can reduce potential challenges and minimize risks.
Key principles fall into five areas:
A high degree of collaboration is essential between the TSMO and IT disciplines and expertise to support TSMO, especially in the light of increasing systems and technology complexity. The need to develop a high degree of communication and coordination is therefore fundamental. Context-neutral key principles supporting collaboration include:
TSMO systems, technologies and institutional relationships are becoming increasingly complex. The critical challenge to TSMO programs (and to IT staff supporting TSMO) is to access and retain the appropriate staff technical capabilities, especially in new areas such as AI, data management, cloud computing, and analytics. In addition, as both TSMO and IT programs expand, workloads and staffing requirements are also growing. Context-neutral principles include:
As TSMO programs become more extensive, complex, and costly, and as they involve a wider range of assets that may be supported by IT or subject to IT policy, it is increasingly important for TSMO planning and programming to involve IT from the outset. In addition, agencies have found that special features of TSMO systems and assets, such as availability, field hardening, and short lifecycles need to be accommodated with IT interests from the beginning. Context-neutral principles include:
TSMO program development depends substantially on combinations of public- and private-sector infrastructure, devices, and services. “Projects” may include a mix of communications, devices, hardware and software, and fixed assets, separately or in combination. These projects are in many respects distinct from conventional State DOT assets and related project development practices. In addition, technologies are rapidly evolving and may be proprietary, and involve risks of operationality and obsolescence. As a result, while the investment levels may not be large compared to other transportation assets, the project development process has unique and often complex features. Context-neutral principles include:
TSMO projects often involve complex combinations of communication, surveillance, control, analytical, and computing technologies. TSMO projects may also include operational dependence on external parties or systems for information or services. Context-neutral principles include:
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