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Like many agencies, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) faces considerable pressure to deliver responsive online services, increase data transparency, and imagine new ways to use technology to boost efficiency and flexibility. The agency is meeting these challenges with a strategy to modernize the way it adopts technology and manages its data. NMED has three broad modernization goals, each of which involves issues that will look familiar to other agencies: expand data access and online services, build modern and efficient operations, and maximize agency flexibility and resilience.

After much research and consideration, the agency is implementing a three-point modernization strategy to achieve its goals:

Strategy 1 – Free the Data!
The critical first step in the journey is to liberate NMED’s data from the silos of legacy software, using technology called Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). APIs are crucial to the modern web and they enable everything from smartphone apps to online collaboration tools. APIs are essentially connectors that allow data to be securely read and written in such a way that is not tied to a specific application. Legacy software often traps data in a monolithic architecture. APIs, on the other hand, turn data into reusable building blocks that can support an array of different tools and needs. NMED is using funds from EPA’s Exchange Network Grant Program to create an Open Data Portal and a Universal Data API – a tool that is helping the department to efficiently create a vast number of APIs across programs. NMED aims to have 50-75% of its legacy data available via API by September 2022.

Strategy 2 – Embrace Low-Code Tools to Empower Users and Accelerate Projects
Traditional software development typically requires large teams of developers, project managers, business analysts, and subject matter experts. A single project can take months or even years to complete. NMED has none of those luxuries. The agency’s solution is to use the power of low-code tools to replace traditional development. Low-code tools make development much faster and more consistent, enabling the sharing of “solution DNA” between applications. They are also straightforward enough for savvy environmental program staff to use on their own with guidance from NMED’s IT professionals. This transformative feature is enabling an entirely new class of self-empowered “citizen” developers that can pursue their creative efforts, while freeing programs and IT staff from the bottleneck of limited developer and project management resources. NMED is already seeing impressive results from its ongoing transition to low-code.

Strategy 3 – Look to the Cloud!
The last pillar of NMED’s strategy is to migrate IT assets to the cloud. Cloud-based tools boost the agency’s capabilities and contribute to a more collaborative culture. Employees have easier access to files and much better document sharing capabilities. The Operations team can deploy these tools to a distributed workforce and easily troubleshoot them where and when needed. NMED soon hopes to move application and database server stacks to the cloud where they will benefit from built-in resource scaling to respond to surges in demand during filing deadlines and built-in disaster recovery – both at a more affordable price point given limited budgets.

For more information, contact Todd Hochman of the New Mexico Environment Department, or visit New Mexico’s profile on the E-Enterprise Community Inventory Platform.