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Author's profile photo Dante Ricci

The Future Use of Cloud Computing in Public Sector is Taking Shape

Have you ever had a chance to create some time and space to explore the pros and cons of cloud computing with colleagues from other agencies and backgrounds? 

Last week I had the opportunity to do just that at the Ovum Industry Congress Ovum Industry Congress 2014 in London.   The Ovum Industry Congress drew participants from all over the globe who wanted to learn more about information technology as it relates to their industry. 

I was lucky enough to particpate on a panel discussion at the event about cloud computing.  The objective of the panel discussion primarily focused on the gap between the promise of cloud computing and the outstanding issues stifling cloud adoption. 

The discussion gave all who attended a chance to ask key questions about policy and practice related to cloud computing adoption.  The panelists agreed on these 10 conclusions:

  1. Complexity built up over decades hampers the ability to innovate; simplification is needed to unlock the potential to innovate and deliver better outcomes for citizens
  2. Cloud computing has become one of the key disruptive technologies for governments large and small around the world.  It is unleashing new operating models that are simplifying the technology stack to   improve performance at lower costs. 
  3. Deploying a portfolio of public, private or managed cloud offerings will enable agencies to complete projects faster and with less total cost of ownership (TCO) if executed correctly.   
  4. We see pockets of adoption with different types of end-to-end cloud deployment options and applications (some successful and some not so successful)
  5. Organizations are starting with small one off projects to live and learn about acquisition best practices, cost/budget implications and support related needs.  These smaller projects are paving the way for future successful enterprise wide projects.
  6. There is an understanding that some solutions meet specific requirements or mission needs but end to end foundation and interoperability issues have not fully been addressed in many organizations.
  7. To achieve better total cost of ownership, security risk and compliance issues  agencies need to eliminate the need at the departmental level to take on shadow IT projects to achieve their objectives.  
  8. Patience is needed while government  optimizes procurement policy to acquire cloud computing capabilities   
  9. There is an opportunity for government to leverage shared services through the cloud to reduce costs but there is still lots of duplication across regional
  10. We must learn together and share lessons learned as we adopt cloud computing.  It is not a question of if the cloud will change the way we consume technology but how and how soon.  .               

These conclusions will not be surprising to many readers but do confirm that we need to continue to collaborate and co-innovate to get the most from cloud computing.   The more we educate each other and share best practices the better.

Please share something about cloud computing you believe we all should learn about.  

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      Author's profile photo Marlyn Zelkowitz
      Marlyn Zelkowitz

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dante. Allow me to share insights from another conference. Cloud Computing East in Washington, DC, recently brought together a diverse group of technology vendors, public sector and healthcare representatives. Participants generally agreed that cloud computing is helping public sector, healthcare, and many other industries manage their operations more efficiently
      and become more agile.  We see pockets of adoption with different types of cloud deployment options and applications in  the cloud, but wholesale adoption in public sector is still fairly  low.

      So what are the barriers to cloud computing adoption in public sector? All panelists agreed that security and data privacy is a big concern, especially with weekly or daily media coverage about data breaches and cybersecurity threats. We also noted that cloud computing vendors security is usually at least as good, if not better than, on premise security. In the US Federal market, the US Federal Risk Management and Authorization Program (FedRAMP) requires cloud service providers to  meet security requirements based on standards defined by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and in the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). All panelists agreed that FedRAMP accreditation may help address buyers’ concerns about cloud computing security. (Look for more on FedRAMP in an upcoming blog post.)

      Panelists noted that the biggest obstacle to cloud computing adoption may be organizational resistance to change.  Using cloud services may be the easiest part of change, especially given the many free cloud-based services such as e-mail that are readily available today. Changing acquisition and budgeting practices in public sector to support cloud computing may be more difficult. Public sector managers will budget for operating expenses for cloud services based on number of users, amount of storage or some other metric, rather than capital expenses. We also noted that the traditional information systems acquisitions with long implementation cycles will change, which may require government services vendors to adjust their business models. These changes eventually will take place – and citizens will benefit from the greater agility of public sector organizations as a result. 

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      I agree that changing budgeting practices in public sector, ie capex vs. opex, will continue to be a challenge. Industry can help by educating not only IT managers and procurement but also legislators and the press and other people who influence how money is budgeted and spent. Similarly, solutions providers will need to adjust away from exclusively selling huge implementations, and get more comfortable selling services with recurring revenue. I know SAP and a few others are already moving in this direction, which is a great development for public sector IT.

      Author's profile photo Dante Ricci
      Dante Ricci

      Thanks John, Marlyn,

          I appreciate the insights you both brought to the conversation.  Both responses are insightful.

      Author's profile photo Marlyn Zelkowitz
      Marlyn Zelkowitz

      I agree with John on so many levels. He makes a great point that solutions providers may have to adjust their business model away from selling big implementations. However, customizations of cloud solutions are possible by extending solutions via the platform or connecting through open application program interfaces (APIs) to other functions.  So the business model may not change that much. The value delivered from cloud will depend on how customers use the cloud. I remain optimistic on cloud's potential to deliver tangible benefits to improve citizens lives.