Now is the time for governments to transition to the cloud

07 June 2012 | Joe Scalone, Senior Program Manager, International Government Affairs

Due to economic constraints and budget pressure, many governments worldwide are asking their CIOs and IT departments to increase productivity while reducing costs. It’s a significant challenge. However, it’s a goal that can be accomplished by embracing the cloud.

In fact, now is an ideal time to move to the cloud. The technology is proven, robust enough for government demands, and many governments that are already leveraging the cloud are seeing significant benefits such as cost savings, improved efficiencies, opportunities for innovation and new market possibilities. Take for example the benefits resulting from these two impressive cloud deployments:

  • According to a March 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) titled “Enterprise Email in the Cloud”, the department claims that—by migrating email off its legacy system and onto the cloud—it has reduced the cost of mail messaging to less than $8 a month per user. Once fully operational, the USDA expects to see an impressive cost savings of approximately $6 million per year, in addition to improved capabilities across the enterprise.

  • The U.S. Army is also reaping the cost savings and security benefits of moving to the cloud. By leveraging a cloud-based enterprise email system, the Army saved roughly $100 million in 2011 alone. The Army even credits the new system with helping it avoid an email-delivered malware attack.

In addition to savings made possible by phasing out legacy systems and consolidating infrastructure, the cloud offers exciting new business models for governments to tap into. One of the most interesting business models, in my opinion, is the concept of shared services. Essentially, shared services involves government agencies pooling IT resources in the cloud and sharing them across departments, or even across various levels of government. For more on this topic, I highly recommend checking out a blog post from Joel Cherkis who provides a great intro to this issue.

Of the many countries moving toward shared services, one of the most visible is the United States. In fact, the U.S. government recently evolved its cloud computing strategy by announcing an aggressive “shared first” policy, which you can read more about here. Essentially, this “shared first” policy calls for the government’s 300+ agencies to move existing and new services to the cloud, and requires agencies to co-develop and share the applications, systems and networks. It’s an innovative “do more with less” approach that I believe speaks to all governments looking to increase the efficiency of their technology spend while eliminating duplicate IT solutions.

Embracing the cloud: How to do it

If your agency is looking to accelerate the adoption of cloud technologies, I encourage you to check out Cloud First, Cloud Fast: Recommendations for Innovation, Leadership and Job Creation and the Cloud First Buyer’s Guide. While these were created to support the U.S. government’s cloud initiatives, I believe they can offer valuable guidance for any agency on how to move to cloud computing smoothly, quickly and successfully.

Beyond these resources, here are two tips that I’ve gathered from observing and working on some of today’s most successful cloud deployments in government:

  • Make a commitment to new purchases of IT in the cloud today, and have a plan to phase out legacy systems on a near-term schedule. There is no time like the present to begin reaping the benefits of cloud computing and stop investing money in exponentially costly legacy systems.

  • Accelerate government cloud adoption by identifying specific applications to migrate, and then set dates for migration. Legacy applications reduce productivity and increase costs, so they should be replaced systematically by each government department. This modular approach will help your agency stay focused and on track with its migration efforts.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Joe Scalone
Senior Program Manager, International Government Affairs

About the Author

Joe Scalone | Senior Program Manager, International Government Affairs

Joe manages a database of software standards for Microsoft across all product groups, particularly those of interest to national governments. Formerly, Joe served in roles managing competitive analysis and competition law compliance for Microsoft.