Look beyond efficiency when it comes to cloud

cloud lessons (ScandinavianStock/ 

Cloud computing continues to permeate the federal government as agencies embrace its cost and productivity benefits. Nearly two-thirds of the federal employees responding to a recent Deloitte survey indicated their agency has moved at least some applications to the cloud. Identifying the primary motivators of cloud migration, survey respondents gave similar weight to cost savings, organizational efficiency and better data sharing.

Savings, efficiency, and sharing are inarguably worthy intents of cloud migration. Notably absent among these federal survey responses, however, is another objective routinely pursued by high-performing organizations: innovation.

For example, some two-thirds of survey respondents depend on cloud access to complete work assignments; storage and applications are the most commonly cited uses of cloud computing. At the same time, respondents appear to have a limited view of cloud capabilities, perhaps not fully aware of the opportunities it presents for innovation. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they did not know about cloud's capacity to access software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, and 57 percent were unaware that cloud can accelerate the build and delivery of mobile services.

Applications such as these highlight how the cloud can advance and accelerate the federal government's adoption of next-generation technologies, and how agencies can capture the value of cloud investments.

The importance of governance and change management

Some housekeeping appears in order for agencies planning to pursue cloud innovation. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents described their organization's cloud governance as either nonexistent or too lax, or insubstantial. Such assessment is borne out in 71 percent of respondents owning up to having used an unauthorized application at least once to streamline work or collaborate more easily, which could indicate that governance is too complex or cumbersome. A quarter of respondents expressed belief that their leadership had failed to properly manage workforce changes resulting from cloud migration.

These responses send a clear signal to agency leadership: communicating the strategy and organizational impact of cloud transformation is essential to employees feeling invested and accountable in abiding by a cloud governance framework in their daily work lives. Often, cloud aversion stems not from technical anxiety or lack of expertise, but a lack of education and involvement. IT modernization proceeds only as fast as leadership wills it.

As government technology leaders meet Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act milestones and look to take advantage of the Modernizing Government Technology Act, governance and change management will likely play key roles in agencies' success.

An innovation opportunity

Along with enabling SaaS, mobile services, and other applications such as analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms, cloud innovation extends to how agencies can better manage resources in a cloud-enabled world. Agencies may be using multiple clouds to address specific needs such as customer support, email as a service, mobility, application hosting, and DevOps, to name a few. As the adoption of cloud continues to progress, the integration and operation of these cloud environments and on-premises server stacks, as if one environment, comes into the mix as well.

Applying these resources effectively while providing a fertile environment for new cloud applications calls for a multi-cloud management approach. Multi-cloud management allows an enterprise to manage and utilize a mix of on-premises, private cloud, and third-party public cloud.

Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents are already deploying or are about to deploy hybrid cloud, and another third say their agency is exploring the option. We can expect this trend to continue through 2018 and beyond, highlighting the need for multi-cloud management.

The road ahead

How the cloud is used – governance and organizational factors – will be important to the success of cloud adoption. But key to agencies' better return on their cloud investments will be how these new hybrid environments are managed and how agencies harness the full power, accessibility and capability of the cloud to drive innovation and the use of modern technology across the enterprise.

About the Author

Doug Bourgeois is managing director in Deloitte Consulting LLP's federal cloud practice.


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