Federal agencies are getting “cloud smart” to enhance their missions

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Agencies cloud smartExperience matters. It matters in sports. It matters in work. It matters when government agencies adopt cloud technology.

The federal government now has almost eight years of experience since it announced its “Cloud First” policy, which used the best knowledge at the time to guide agencies in adopting cloud computing technologies.

The market has matured a lot in eight years, and cloud technology is more sophisticated, leading the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to recently update “Cloud First” with the proposed “Cloud Smart” strategy. It’s good timing, as a benchmark study conducted by FedScoop shows that, even after eight years, only 34 percent of agencies report cost savings from moving to cloud, the original and still-important impetus for cloud adoption for many organizations.

More than 100 government and industry leaders recently came together for “Get Cloud Smart”, a symposium hosted by MeriTalk and IBM to share how their combined experience is leading to new, smarter strategies to deliver cloud services that support their agencies’ unique missions.

It was encouraging to hear leaders from Customs and Border Protection, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the State Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) share their progress and how the new strategy could accelerate adoption of cloud technologies.

Modernizing data for cloud

One theme that stood out is the need to modernize data while updating infrastructure and applications. The value of cloud and cloud-enabled technologies such as AI and blockchain is derived from how they help agencies realize more value form their data. Rob Thomas, general manager of IBM Analytics, made clear in his keynote address that if agencies don’t build an information architecture to prepare for artificial intelligence (AI), they will have difficulty in both climbing the “ladder to AI” and realizing the benefits that cloud can bring.

Deliberately engaging multiple clouds

Agency speakers throughout the morning repeatedly talked about having multiple cloud environments that they now need to manage and connect using hybrid approaches to their traditional IT. It’s critical to be deliberate — which doesn’t mean slow — and plan for long-term needs to securely manage multiple cloud environments.

This is particularly important since no cloud is the same. Kshemendra Paul, DHS CIO’s cloud action officer, shared that his department is laser-focused on data and workload portability across its on-premises and cloud environments. We see this need for hybrid, multicloud solutions across our government and commercial clients. Organizations that are most advanced in this area are taking a platform approach and using cloud-native technologies such as containers and microservices to gain flexibility and agility. IBM Cloud Private and IBM Multicloud Manager are solutions that help agencies manage their environments from a single console.

Transforming federal agency IT

Above all, cloud and cloud-enabled technology represent a huge transformation in how agencies deliver IT. The main takeaway from the symposium is that technology won’t be the primary challenge. Getting the three “Cloud Smart” priorities — workforce, acquisition and security — right will ultimately determine how successfully the cloud advances agency missions.

Given how much emphasis the government speakers gave to these areas, and the work each is doing to help employees thrive in this emerging cloud era, I’m confident federal agencies will use their experience to thrive in the cloud era.

Cloud smart presentation agencies

GM of IBM Analytics Rob Thomas shares insight on how agencies can improve their use of data to advance their mission.

See the Get Cloud Smart keynote presentation from Rob Thomas on how agencies are using analytics and AI to generate more value from their data.

Learn more by registering to read the full FedScoop Cloud Adoption federal benchmark study, which shares insights from 169 federal IT executives and leaders about their experiences with cloud adoption.

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