Digital technology has the potential to fundamentally transform and modernize the way the public sector operates, supports its employees and delivers services to constituents. Governments today are working to provide the same seamless online experience constituents have come to expect from the private sector.
With a swipe of a finger, citizens and businesses want to be able to update their driver’s license, register a business or obtain licensing and permitting. Equally important, agencies would be amiss to not include back-office modernization in their digital transformation strategy. Human capital and talent management, finance and procurement and other back-office tasks account for a significant portion of an agency’s budget – especially when performed on legacy systems.
To modernize back-office systems and digitally transform government services, agencies are increasingly relying on cloud technologies. Cloud allows governments to be proactive rather than reactive in how they meet citizen needs and expectations. Cloud can also help agencies reduce costs, maximize efficiency, increase agility and prioritize spend on innovation and agency missions.
So how can government incorporate the next level of cloud technologies?
To help answer that question, GovLoop heard from Bob Benstead, Vice President of Public Sector at Infor; Rick Cirigliano, Vice President of Cloud Services at Infor; and Shashank Khandelwal, Acting Director of Cloud.gov. At GovLoop’s recent training, “Gov Trends Virtual Summit: Looking Ahead to 2018,” these experts shared how agencies are opening up new cloud solutions to unlock innovation; how FedRAMP and other security requirements are impacting the government’s transition to the cloud; and how agencies can improve business applications through cloud.
Getting started with cloud can seem like a daunting task, especially in government. Normally, it might take agencies one to three months to develop a small piece of software and a much longer time to make it secure and compliant.
But Khandelwal emphasized that moving to cloud is more than possible and has many benefits for the public sector. “What we did with cloud.gov is offer a shared service by GSA, which can be baked into a lot of government processes and security requirements,” he said. “We wanted to provide modern self-service tools to help agencies develop rapidly and iteratively and deliver better products and faster services to constituents.”
In fact, agencies are moving past the point of getting started and are now leveraging cloud for digital transformation. “We started down the path of cloud shared services about 10 years ago, but now we’re seeing cloud transformation where agencies are trying to get mission-related data out to the frontline when needed in a quicker manner,” Cirigliano said.
Additionally, agencies are using clouds to improve business intelligence and deliver improved citizen services.
“The most important thing about digital transformation is moving to the cloud isn’t about technology and servers; it’s about the users,” Khandelwal added.
Navigating FedRAMP and Security Requirements
Security tends to be a primary concern when it comes to cloud, but many agencies are finding ways to navigate such concerns.
“This is the age of the security and compliant cloud,” Cirigliano said. “When cloud providers do third-party audits, agencies can take those processes and inherit them as part of cloud operations and controls. We also have reduced customization now. As we deliver more standard services from the private sector, we decrease the need for customization and this enhances security.”
To help navigate any lingering security concerns with cloud, Benstead suggested that agencies take the following steps:
- Understand your managed policy to help you dictate security needs.
- Understand the standard you will use to measure compliance.
- Decide the operational order of application management vs. data management.
How Agencies Can Improve Business Applications by Moving to Cloud
How does transition to the cloud impact daily business and operations in government?
“One main benefit is the movement to self-service portals and putting that in cloud,” Benstead said. “There are lots of benefits including more uptime and high availability, which translates to 24/7 service available to citizens.”
“I’m seeing larger website-style applications moving to the cloud,” Khandelwal added. “Complex websites that display a lot of data to the user and larger, similar applications are starting to move to the cloud as well. From a back-office perspective, more agencies are moving to email-based services i.e. Office 365, which comes with better collaboration and sharing tools.”
To gain the full benefits of cloud, agencies really need to understand the business case and use a business intelligence perspective.
“How do you get there?” Benstead asked. “You have to really understand the business case for it and have a good grasp of the ROI. Don’t just depend on the technology case and don’t try to boil the ocean when you’re approaching cloud next steps.”
Cloud Trends for 2018
Looking to the future, the experts had many predictions for government’s move to the cloud and harnessing digital transformation.
“What we’re seeing is this desire for digital transformation and changing the culture of how government works,” Cirigliano said. “Government wants to see measured results and they’re working more to achieve that.”
Additionally, the experts shared these cloud trends for government in 2018 and beyond:
- Agencies are still playing catch up. The next two-three years is about getting as many existing applications as possible into the cloud. Some applications will go into cloud as is, but won’t necessarily be cloud native.
- There will be enormous amounts of data. One hot topic is infrastructure data and inclusion of sensors for things like autonomous vehicles. That has to be housed in cloud. The other hot use is business intelligence: moving into computational ability to make real business decisions.
- Using cloud to focus on mission priorities. The operational side of cloud speaks to helping agencies deliver better services for citizens.
- Security, security, security. Connectivity and IoT have introduced many more entry points into networks for cyberattacks. There’s also the complication of advanced persistent threats. Such threats will be much more prevalent with more devices being introduced in the connected world of government agencies.
Ultimately, by using the next steps for cloud success in government is reaping the benefits cloud offers as well as digital transformation. Agencies can save resources and invest that money into other shared products and services. Thus, they have more time and resources to strategize for better business decision-making. “Once you’re operating in a cloud-based world, everything’s operating faster and you start adapting,” Khandelwal concluded.