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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

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:

  • High-speed networks and related digital and video communication technologies.
  • A range of sophisticated surveillance and detection devices.
  • Management centers utilizing specialized analytics backed by artificial intelligence (AI).
  • A wide range of big data sources.
  • Growth in the in inventory of supporting hardware and software.

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:

  • A growing toolkit of AI technologies, including computer vision, natural conversation, and machine learning for decision support.
  • Broader band and higher speed communications (5G cellular).
  • Reliance on edge computing.
  • Distributed hardware and networks.
  • Big(ger) data.
  • Mobile access.

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:

  • CAV integration.
  • Electronic road pricing (road usage charging).
  • V2X communications.
  • Custom-focused mobility as a service.
  • Smart Cities and the IoT.

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:

  • TSMO and Information Technology Collaboration.
  • Technical Capability and Staffing.
  • Planning and Programming.
  • Program Delivery.
  • Equipment and Systems.

TSMO and Information Technology Collaboration

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:

  • Understand the respective domains’ fundamental objectives and systems, including willingness to “educate” respective staffs and domain functions and constraints.
  • Define key responsibilities as they relate to the role of IT within TSMO and related organizational arrangements, including flexibility to experiment and/or adjust as programs evolve.
  • Recognize differential roles of IT throughout the entire TSMO project lifecycle from planning through design procurement deployment and system maintenance.
  • Provide flexible organizational configuration to adjust responsibilities that consider TSMO versus IT staff technical expertise.
  • Retain flexible organizational configuration to adjust responsibilities that consider special demands of certain TSMO projects.
  • Formalize agreements regarding objectives, priorities, roles, and responsibilities to ensure sustainable collaboration and to face changing staffing and context.

Technical Capability and Staffing

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:

  • Identify essential core staff technical and management capacity for TSMO KSA).
  • Use pilot programs to identify needed expertise and sources, internal and external.
  • Consider appropriately locating needed IT expertise for TSMO, within TSMO versus IT groups.
  • Identify currently available training resources, internal and external.
  • Focus recruitment on both internal transfers and potential broad range of external “pools” of qualified candidates.
  • Consider appropriate roles of outsourcing for capabilities or services—dependent on practicality and cost-effectiveness of maintaining specialized expertise—and where possible, consider the use of outsourcing as an opportunity to gain expertise for possible in-house transfer.
  • Recognize that specialized expertise and/or services may be best accessed by public-private partnerships, and that specialized management of such arrangements is a needed capability.

Planning and Programming

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:

  • Conduct formal TSMO planning within the transportation agency context to ensure access to the full range of DOT and IT funding resources.
  • Recognize explicit IT principles’ constraints.
  • Involve IT staff in formal planning to ensure availability of needed IT funding resources.
  • Track both TSMO and IT private-sector developments to maintain state-of-the-practice relevance.
  • Involve IT staff in systems engineering to ensure broad understanding of systems and IT-related roles and responsibilities.
  • Accommodate technology and analytics updates for increasingly ATM.
  • Utilize lifecycle approach to ensure mutual IT-TSMO understanding of system maintenance challenges.

Program Delivery

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:

  • Define appropriate project development process that includes input; reviews can be obtained from the appropriate IT and TSMO staff.
  • Utilize systems engineering approach to ensure that all hardware and software requirements have been identified, including roles and responsibilities of key parties: TSMO, IT, and external.
  • Utilize lifecycle approach to ensure that the key cost elements from implementation to long-term operational maintenance activities have been accommodated.
  • Investigate the full range of potential procurement options for various projects as appropriate, including any IT-related constraints.
  • Continue to review project development process for opportunities to streamline, including early involvement of IT staff review.

Equipment and Systems

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:

  • Maintain systems architecture to ensure consistency and interoperability.
  • Produce data management plan, including considering external data resources, remote processing and sharing real-time data.
  • Develop effective, standardized, and efficient approaches to managing relationships with external private-sector entities that supply technology or services.
  • Update TSMO security systems with IT staff so that the security protocols align and support the newer technologies, including firewalls, administrative rights, and software access.