Efficiency and quick turnarounds aren’t words usually associated with government IT services. With outdated, legacy systems in use across government, it can seem like getting web-based services up and running is an impossible task. However, by moving services to the cloud many agencies are able to off-load data storage and management while still maintaining high levels of security.
The Department of the Interior is a great example of agency success within the cloud. Larry Gillick, Deputy Director of Digital Strategy and Drupal PaaS Evangelist at Interior, and Bryna Dash, Director U.S. Federal at IBM Cloud, participated in GovLoop’s recent online training, How Agencies Can Quickly Transform Service Delivery With the Cloud and Drupal, to give their advice on how to take advantage of cloud technology. These are their thoughts on how to start implementing Platform-as-a-Service at your agency:
There will be challenges. As with any change in government, moving to the cloud doesn’t necessarily come without it’s challenges. Finding the right cloud platform for your agency and your unique mission is crucial in making the most of all the cloud has to offer. However, making sure that you are still meeting federal IT regulations and other security standards can hinder a seamless cloud transition.
As Gillick said, your agency’s budget is also something that can get in the way. Because so much money has been put into maintaining those old systems, it can be hard to convince your superiors that cloud-based technology is actually more cost-efficient in the long run.
What to take into consideration. Before fully transitioning to the cloud, Dash suggested making sure you know exactly what you’re looking for.
“Make sure you’re asking yourself, what’s your strategy? Dash said. “Are you just looking to lift and shift? Or are you trying to modernize your way of doing business so its more suited to cloud? Each of those approaches have different labor costs and time horizons to consider.” Make sure that you’re communicating your needs to your cloud provider, so that the industry is on the hook for providing you with what you need.
The overall value outweighs those challenges. Because a cloud-based platform has so many perks, it’s important to persevere through the issues that may be hindering you and your agency. IBM, and other PaaS providers, are usually held responsible for the security of the landscape they produce. So much so that Gillick has, for the most part, stopped worrying about security altogether.
“With IBM’s cloud, I don’t have to worry, they don’t make me think,” Gillick said. “Because Drupal is open sourced and there’s no licensing, more people can help each other to understand and implement it. I really don’t worry about security or hardware or software.”
Follow Interior’s example. It’s critical to make a move toward the cloud as quickly as you can. As the age-old saying goes, time really is money, and government agencies can’t waste precious resources by spending too much time making a decision. Interior chose IBM’s public version of Drupal by having a contest for their business. Not expecting to make everyone happy, Gillick was surprised when everyone seemed to agree on IBM and Drupal.
“The Drupal option didn’t have any arguments, because everyone was equally disenfranchised, and it gave us the room needed,” he recalled. “There was cooperation and a real coalition of the people willing to make a platform. A huge part of it was that we were really just offering the service, we didn’t force it.”
By taking a thorough and extensive look at all of the cloud services offered, and making your agency’s needs heard, a more efficient way to offer services to your citizens isn’t too far off. Implementing cloud leaves more room for agencies to focus on their missions and better engage their citizens.