The fastest path to ROI in the national cloud

07 October 2013 | Dan Mannion, Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

Government IT budgets have been slashed even as service expectations have skyrocketed. Citizens now expect access to all services all the time, leading many governments ever closer to a national cloud deployment. But like any new initiative, a national cloud needs to show a return on investment, and fast. Here are three best practices to make it happen.

1. Implement the most impactful workloads first.

Over the last 10 to 15 years, governments have consolidated many basic IT services. And just in the last three years, we’re seeing a trend toward further consolidationthis time into the national cloud where it’s easy to get economies of scale, optimize costs, and calculate ROI.

To get on board, first consolidate services that are taken for granted as part of everyday business, such as email, messaging, and collaboration. Whether you’re in an emerging country that’s modernizing IT or a mature country that’s standardizing services with in-country providers, consolidating these basic workloads first makes you more efficientand gives you the fastest return on your investment.

2. Buy existing functionality instead of building it.

Acquiring rather than building the functionality you need reduces time and costs while accelerating ROI. For example, today you can cover your communications needs with off-the-shelf products while also getting advanced email, messaging, and collaboration capabilitiesincluding archiving, auditing, and custom forms. It’s more affordable than you might imagine. Everyone in IT agrees that “free” is never free, and we often grossly underestimate the cost of supporting, updating, changing, fixing, upgrading, migrating, and managing free solutions. Instead, you should concentrate on freeing your limited IT resources from managing and maintaining packaged software, enabling them to focus on the more strategic goal of better government service delivery through technology.

3. Choose the fastest implementation approach.

As I described in a previous post, there are three approaches to national cloud strategy. The pace of ROI differs based on which approach you take.

  • Public cloud

The fastest ROI is found in the public cloud because the service is there, the infrastructure is done, and the economies of scale can’t be matched. Implementing your national cloud this way is just a matter of subscribing and on-boarding your people. 

  • Dedicated, in-country hoster

The second-fastest approach is having a dedicated, in-country hoster to help you design and implement the solution. This is relatively quick because these partners have the skills, experience, and resources you need.  Just be aware, the more you ask for custom features, the faster you increase your total cost of ownership (TCO). 

  • Self-host

The third-fastest implementation strategy is to host your national cloud yourself. Because you may procure IT help as needed, there may not be a lot of ready resources in-house. Outsourced help will have to come up to speed and acquire skills. You also may not have the physical resources (such as data centers) that you’ll need. All of this takes time.  

Following these three practices will help you get your national cloud to market fasterwith faster user adoption and employee trainingfor an overall faster return on your investment. Citizens will get what they need and want, and you’ll be creating the foundation for a more streamlined government that makes your limited budget go further.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Or e-mail us at

Dan Mannion
Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

About the Author

Dan Mannion | Director, Public Sector Cloud Strategy

Dan Mannion leads Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector cloud sales business, delivering the most innovative solutions to government, health, and education customers around the globe. Read more