Are Cloud Computing Engineers the Missing Link in Your Federal IT Team?

Cloud computing can be more complex than anticipated, particularly as agencies continue to move applications and operations into a cloud environment. Does your federal IT team have the in-house skills to ensure cloud computing is helping your agency rather than draining its money and resources?

A recent SolarWinds® IT Trends Report suggests agencies may not be providing the time necessary for federal IT pros to advance their skill sets or build diverse skills across multiple disciplines, despite a desire to do so.

According to the report, tech pros have an appetite to prioritize career development, but they’re hindered by time. Case in point: 79% of respondents say their day-to-day IT tasks extend into time earmarked for career development, leaving little time for learning. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that 60% of respondents have not actively pursued a new skill or completed a certification in the last six months.

To meet the growing demand for cloud computing expertise, many agencies rely on outside contractors for their cloud migrations and subsequent maintenance and monitoring. Unfortunately, experts agree this may not be the most beneficial path.

“If you outsource all this… you will not learn and you will pay over and over again for that contractor or go through the government contracting process every time you want to do it,” said Major General John Ferrari, director of the Army Program Analysis and Evaluation Office, at the AWS Public Sector Summit earlier this year. “Train your [own] people to do it.”

Overarching government guidance agrees with this perspective. As part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, the agency has presented guidance titled “From Cloud First to Cloud Smart.” Of note within the OMB’s guidance is a section titled “Workforce,” wherein the agency states the following:

“Successful adoption of cloud solutions requires a workforce that understands how to manage the complexities of a migration as well as how to support a cloud environment once fully deployed.

“Specifically, agencies should identify potential skills gaps that emerge as a result of a transition to cloud-based services, and, where needed, equip their existing staff with additional skills and knowledge to keep up with the ever-expanding list of technology options available to procure and deploy.”

With an increased need for in-house skill development but seemingly less time, what’s the solution?

OMB recommends agencies encourage a culture change focusing on education—specifically, a mindset of ongoing improvement and learning. The agency goes on to say this change must come from agency leadership, which should not only prioritize training and education but provide the resources necessary to implement this new mindset.

Major General Ferrari echoed this sentiment. His office’s first cloud migration took three years, he explained; the second took only three weeks. In-house training made all the difference, he said, and his organization allowed staffers to create their own training plans and provided the time necessary to complete them.

“Because we brought that in-house and then leveraged our industry partners to help fill in the gaps, we went from three years to three weeks,” he said. “Now we’re cooking with gasoline.”

Craig McDonald is Vice President of Product at SolarWinds where he leads the Product Management and Product Marketing teams for SolarWinds’ Database Management portfolio.  Craig has over 20 years of experience in a broad range of verticals both in and outside of IT including online equities trading, identity management, video games, and artificial intelligence.  His wide-ranging experience in different industries helps bring a unique and fresh perspective on how to build compelling products that solve problems for IT professionals.

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