Government agencies spending more on cloud, but some execs are fuzzy on the details

Government agencies – both state and federal – are making progress in implementing cloud, but it’s slow and can be unsteady, according to a new report from IDC Government Insights.

The vast majority of the 400 government workers surveyed -- primarily C-level executives and IT program administrators -- recognize the importance of cloud, with 90 percent saying they believe cloud will have impact on their agency’s IT operations. Less certain is how that use will be budgeted and how migration will actually happen, according to the report.

“Government IT directors and decision-makers say that they are experimenting with cloud solutions, and most intend to expand the amount of money they spend on cloud services,” the report, which is not publicly available, noted. “Yet many remain unsure of how much to budget for cloud solutions and also feel their organization lacks an overall cloud strategy.”

More than a third of respondents weren’t aware of their agency’s cloud budget, the report stated. The norm is for agencies to spend between 1 percent and 10 percent of their IT budget on cloud-related expenses, but some agencies spent considerably more.

One surprising finding was that chief financial officers, unlike their fellow C-level executives, often were only somewhat familiar with their agencies’ cloud strategy.

“In reality, CFOs are often the people who drive their group's transition to cloud. Because of the potential cost savings associated with cloud, most CFOs should have a working awareness of how their agency is targeting cloud solutions, even if they don't have detailed technical knowledge related to those systems,” the reported noted.

Analyzing changes in spending between fiscal 2011 and 2012, IDC found that roughly a third of agencies are taking things slow, employing a “wait and see” approach to transitioning to cloud. Still, there are also “strong pockets of growth” as well, and agencies boosting their cloud spending is likely to be a continuing trend.

There seems to be a common path for agencies evaluating their move to the cloud. Many agencies are starting out by shoring up enterprise architecture requirements, then dipping their toes in with “low-hanging fruit” like cloud-based e-mail. Beyond that, it’s increasingly common for agencies to try out infrastructure solutions such as server capacity and IT management, according to the report.

“The broad takeaway from this data is that government employees realize that cloud is becoming important, but many are still deciding what cloud will mean to them,” the report noted.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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