This blog is an excerpt from our recent Industry Perspective, “Revolutionizing Government Facilities Management in the Cloud.” To download the full brief, click here.
The US government owned and managed buildings and assets well before Thomas Jefferson signed his name to the Declaration of Independence. Today, federal government owns, leases, or manages more than 275,000 buildings around the globe. Additionally, current day facilities managers have a resource that Jefferson and his fellow Founding Fathers could never have imagined: cloud computing.
Since 2010, government has seen cloud move from an emerging technology to a cost-effective and highly secure standard for business going forward. The shift is due in large part to the launch of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), the security guidance created through the collaborative efforts of the General Services Administration (GSA), The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Defense, among others.
FedRAMP provides a compliance framework within which the vendor community can secure authority to operate for their unique products and services running in the cloud. This makes the pairing of facilities management and cloud technology all the more feasible. Facilities management applications in the cloud can allow facility directors and their teams to access best-of-breed, commercial off-the-shelf solutions, along with cloud-based data storage and processing power, which increases efficiencies.
The Cloud and Facilities Management
The easiest way to understand how cloud computing can impact facilities management is to think of the cloud as deployment methodology. The cloud is a service that assumes the responsibility of assimilating, maintaining, and securing the technology platform an organization needs to manage and run its data.
The agency still controls and owns the data. But all the underlying infrastructure – the hardware, the networking, and the security systems required to administer the data – is managed by a third party who guarantees its performance through a service-level agreement.
The facilities management cloud service allows agencies to migrate from manual processes that track assets via spreadsheets or in disparate systems. Additionally, a move to a modern facilities management solution, deployed in the cloud, can transition the government’s asset management strategy from one that is reactive to one that is more proactive. A reactive approach to facilities management essentially means fixing assets only after they fail, which can be costly and disruptive.
A predictive or preventive approach through the cloud, however, allows agencies to catch problems earlier and fix assets before they fail, preventing services from being disrupted.
Benefits of Adding Cloud to Facilities Management
There are four main reasons as to why agencies should be considering cloud solutions for facilities management:
- Cost: Cloud computing doesn’t simply provide cost savings; it actually changes the way government buys services. With cloud computing, the cost of running an application is transferred from a capital expenditure to an operational expenditure. Because the government is “renting” IT services and applications from a contractor, it doesn’t have to worry about long-term upkeep or providing services far into the future. The government just buys the services it needs at the time they’re needed.
- Innovation: Cloud consumers can keep their technology current and take advantage of innovation through vendor-supported upgrades and implementation accelerators. Historically, government has maintained its own infrastructure. Agencies have had to manage moving or migrating from release to release on their own – an expensive and time-consuming proposition for government. By using a cloud service provider, however, to support those upgrades and keep the technology up-to-date, agencies are able to leverage more innovation and stay current without allocating staff, resources, or time to manually upgrade each system.
- Agility: A cloud service provider’s technical environment is scalable, which means that agencies that subscribe to cloud services can scale up or down more quickly and at a lower cost than with a self-managed, on-premises deployment. Agencies don’t have to worry about procuring or getting rid of hardware and infrastructure as the size of their organization changes. Governments simply pick up the phone to order more or fewer services from the cloud service provider.
- Security: Cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) employ best-practice security standards, policies, and procedures. For example, AWS provides a security suite with a disaster recovery program. Those services enable an immediate response to threats like outages, daily backups, and data replication. Cloud service providers like AWS offer an advantage in the area of security and preparedness that the government can’t provide on its own.
A New Era of Government Facilities Management
Obviously, the Founding Fathers could never have conceived of cloud computing for facilities management. At a time when electricity was barely understood, and technological innovation involved flying a kite in a thunderstorm, the idea that a building could be managed remotely and wirelessly would have been incomprehensible.
However, with the cloud-based tools and resources available to the public sector today, a true transformation in facilities management is possible. Adding cloud technology to an agency’s facilities management solution saves time and money for government customers. That’s time and money that government can re-invest in other value-added services for the citizenry. Those are definitely changes the Founding Fathers would support.