How Cloud Is Driving Mission, Value at Government Agencies

One of the biggest barriers to change in government is a six-word phrase that can stop even the most innovative ideas from going forward. It sounds something like this: “We’ve always done it that way.”

Sound familiar? To be fair, change can be scary, especially when it involves a new way of executing the mission your agency has been tasked to do. Maybe it’s providing benefits to citizens, grant management, securing our nation’s infrastructure or public safety. When a proposed change impacts that work — whether positively or negatively — it’s worth taking pause and understanding all the implications.

That’s certainly been the case for government agencies as they invest in cloud computing solutions. What was once seen as a technology to help agencies save money is now being embraced as a new business model to improve speed to market for critical applications, increase value for citizens and ultimately improve how agencies carry out their mission.

But how do you take a thoughtful approach to cloud that takes into account security, value, necessary process changes, the impact on the workforce and more? These were among the topics of discussion at a recent roundtable event, “Building a Cloud-Ready Government Database,” hosted by GovLoop, Oracle and Intel.

Speakers included:

  • Bob Thome, Vice President of Product Management, Oracle
  • Sandy Krawchuck, Group Vice President, North America Public Sector, Cloud Infrastructure, Oracle
  • Shyam Raju, Partner & Americas Leader, IaaS, PaaS, and Hyper-convergent Cloud Offering, DXC Technology
  • Keith Trippie, Founder and CEO, The Trippie Group LLC
  • Edward J. Mays, Enterprise Data Management & Engineering Directorate, Office of Information and Technology, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Mays shared that CBP currently has 19 non-mission-critical applications in the cloud. A year from now, that number will be closer to 30, and the agency is on its way to moving mission-critical apps to the cloud. “Our presence in the future is going to basically be cloud,” Mays said.

When Mays came to CBP two years ago, the agency was running 30 billion transactions a day on a mainframe computer. And the data CBP maintains spans commerce transactions, air traffic data, information to support border protection and more.

“Things are high stress,” he said. “All of our systems are under stress. There are network and production challenges. The cloud gives us an opportunity to begin modernization [and] transformation. It gives us an opportunity to actually realize some return on investment.”

The key is having a plan and understanding that cloud is not a destination but a journey, Krawchuck said. For many agencies, cloud adoption is a progression. “What we see across the federal government is an entire spectrum of maturity in both adoption and understanding of cloud and its implications,” she said.

Cloud and the workforce

But what about the workforce? How does a move to cloud impact the way they work?

“This is very positive, but it does require change,” Mays said about moving to the cloud. He mentioned an upcoming town hall to talk with employees about preparing themselves career-wise and technically to understand what the transition to the cloud means for them.

Trippie, a former government senior executive, recalled losing a valued employee who did not have a clearly defined role after his agency moved to the cloud. “I lost one of my best employees because human-capital wise I couldn’t figure out a landing spot for him in the post-cloud world.”

He added, “The government can’t afford to lose really good people.” For example, how do you put the right training programs in place to help system administrators move to Infrastructure-as-a-Service managers?

For employees moving from the private sector to the public sector, there’s an expectation that technology enables them to do their jobs — not hinder them. Cloud is helping to the change that.

What about security?

“If you look at your own internal data center and compare it to cloud, cloud security is far superior,” Raju said. For agencies who are hesitant to move to the cloud, on-premise can be an interim step.

“People move to cloud at their own pace,” Thome said. “It’s really a comfort thing.” There are customers who are aggressive and others who are not.

For Oracle, the key is supporting agencies at varying levels. “We are trying to let people adopt the cloud at their own pace and move to the cloud when they’re ready,” he said. In terms of security, agencies collaborate with cloud services providers to ensure the proper security controls are in place. It’s a partnership.

Thome’s advice: Don’t reinvent the wheel. If you go to the cloud there is a lot of standardization. “It’s not just about modernizing infrastructure but [about] modernizing operational processes.”

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