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Overcoming Roadblocks in Your Agency’s Journey to the Cloud

The cloud is becoming an increasingly integral part of government operations. However, there is still lingering confusion over how agencies should adopt cloud, implementation concerns, and how to overcome these challenges. Answering these overarching questions, as well as others that you may not have known you have, is crucial to understanding how your agency can most effectively utilize the cloud and embrace cloud technology moving forward.

Christopher Dorobek sat down with a panel of cloud experts to discuss those questions in this month’s DorobekINSIDER Live, Answering Your Cloud Computing Questions. Marcelo Olascoaga, Deputy Director of the Government Wide Acquisition Contracts Program at GSA; Justin Brunelle, Lead Application Developer at MITRE; and Nicole Johnson, Technology Writer at GovLoop offered their insights into the government’s relationship with the cloud.

“This is a journey, this is a process, it does not happen overnight,” Johnson said. She emphasized that agencies have to add context to this journey and reframe it as their personal journey. She explained that, “there is a lot that happens between deciding cloud is a good option for an agency and an agency actually using the service.” Without individualizing the journey for your agency, it is easy to get lost in the process of cloud adoption before you really get started.

Government agencies are all in slightly different places in the cloud adoption process. One of the reasons for different adoptions is the size of an agency’s cloud contract. Commenting on what the cloud landscape looks like in the federal government right now, Olascoaga explained, ”cloud purchases are much smaller in nature as complete data centers are not moving over to the cloud, but rather a lot of program offices are making smaller cloud purchases and moving that over.” Brunelle added that government cloud migration is facing a lot of challenges but these challenges are slowly being alleviated.

Much of the misunderstanding surrounding the cloud stems from the challenges agencies face when migrating. Procurement processes, in particular, can plague agencies. Finding a solution that meets your agency’s needs is difficult, as different agencies are interested in utilizing the cloud in different ways. Under the current procurement process, security is one of the hardest challenges to overcome. Johnson explained, “lack of clarity over security is one of the main reasons why agencies are hesitant to move to the cloud.” Additionally, many agencies get bogged down by the overwhelming nature of cloud computing and just don’t know how to start or streamline the process.

However, the experts assured us that these challenges are in no way impossible to overcome. Procurement challenges can be tackled by “taking advantage of software that is being provided and creating uniform migration plans,” Brunelle explained. As a part of moving towards a template for procurement, security concerns would be alleviated as well. Brunelle suggested, “starting migration with less mission critical and non-classified information,” as this ensures security while the agency gets used to the cloud environment. Olascoaga said another way to ensure security is “utilizing a hybrid cloud if you have data that has to be very secure and not moving that data to the cloud.” In order to overcome the overwhelming nature of cloud migration, Johnson suggested only using the necessary features, preparing adequately for implementation by educating those who will actually be working with it, and developing best practices.

In light of these challenges, the future of the cloud is bright. Moving towards a uniform template for cloud adoption will make it much easier for agencies to adopt and ease some of the anxiety surrounding adoption. Additionally, overall education surrounding the cloud is increasing, which demystifies the process and allows agencies to start or continue their journey to the cloud. The experts emphasized that education is the most important component to adoption, as agencies must prepare for the future and be able to continue adapting to the emerging technologies.

Cloud migration is a unique, and oftentimes challenging, process for all agencies. However, Johnson aptly reminded us that, “cloud is one of those things that people make so complicated but if you just start with the basics, educate yourself, look at what others have done and not be afraid to ask questions about how it all works and what it means for your agency, adoptions is attainable.”

Still have questions? Download GovLoop’s recent guide “Mapping Government’s Journey to the Cloud: 8 Success Stories” and keep checking back as we continue exploring the future of government and the cloud.

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