Cloud Smart: The Mission Is Above the Cloud
When Gartner announced the arrival of the federal cloud “inflection point” almost two years ago, it was an inflection point worth celebrating.
In 2010, the Cloud First policy was issued. By 2017, federal IT leaders had largely overcome skepticism, caution and discomfort on cloud matters, and dozens of cloud initiatives ensued. Obstacles fell away, and federal experimentation with cloud computing accelerated.
2019 brought the formulation of key guidance to accelerate cloud adoption, culminating in the Federal Cloud Smart Strategy. Until then, the cloud computing challenge for federal agencies was necessarily about the technology. Will it be secure? Will it protect privacy? How do we find skills needed to move to the cloud? Which applications are “cloud ready?” How do we avoid vendor lock-in of data? Should an agency wait for a cloud solution to get through FedRAMP? Is it worth the risk of losing direct control over equipment, network, applications and data?
Those were all important questions, clearly, but they begged the big one: What does the cloud mean for our mission?
Now, in 2020, with a set of new policies driving agencies to take advantage of cloud computing, there’s a new inflection point that is on the horizon for some agencies and in the grasp of others. The shift is reflected in rapid growth of cloud services for operations of the business (business process, platform and applications services), which will account for 75% of cloud services spending, according to Gartner’s forecast. This is where the full potential of the cloud can be realized and an agency’s use of the cloud begins to play a substantial role in fulfilling its mission:
- Instead of just reducing data storage costs, the agency can put data to valuable use and make it securely accessible, to tech-savvy citizens accustomed to the remarkable customer service and responsiveness in the private sector.
- Instead of having to staff to procure, deploy and maintain software and hardware, cloud providers remove the headache of technology refresh cycles, handling version updates, security patches, etc., freeing up skilled IT employees for mission-critical tasks and shifting resources from legacy maintenance to modernization initiatives.
- Instead of long implementation cycles for new technology, agencies can rapidly deploy new capabilities to create a responsive user experience and a modern work environment, improving both citizen and employee satisfaction.
Examples of federal agencies finding mission-enhancing opportunity in their cloud strategies are beginning to proliferate:
- Only last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced its capability to enable “more access to its ever-growing troves of data in the hopes of sparking new economies and a better understanding of our environment.” NOAA continues to leverage the cloud across its enterprise, in both front and back office operations. It was one of the firstagenciesto move to unified communications using cloud tools. Last year, NOAA conducted a $144 million procurement to accelerate secure migration of data and applications to the cloud.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has moved to the forefront in its commitment and use of IT to improve services for veterans. Amazon Web Services GovCloud (U.S.) connected the VA network to the cloud to provide a single place for veterans to discover, apply for, track and manage the benefits they have earned, using any device. The VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals uses GovCloud to streamline the appeals process from more than five years by prioritizing pain points and producing timely appeals decisions. The VA is currently deploying a robust modernization strategy built around cloud services.
- With Microsoft Azure Government, the Department of Defense is building a cloud environment for the Air Force to support future innovation and leapfrog more traditional cloud migration strategies in furtherance of the Air Force mission “to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.”
As agencies move forward in this new decade, they should think about what results they seek in cloud migration? Is their mission-critical inflection point at hand? Are their cloud strategies enhancing the mission or just shifting to Infrastructure as a Service? With the breadth of cloud solutions available to agencies, are they seeking ways that cloud services can improve mission performance, and how can cloud help execute them?
Next up: “PredictSmart: Developing data strategies for improving mission results.
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