Like the Feds, State and Local governments see the benefit of cloud computing but they haven’t made progress like their Federal counterparts. The tortoise is trying to catch the hare – and it’s not often the Feds get to play the role of the hare.
Well, move over Feds, cloud is a huge strategic goal for State and Locals.
The National Association of State CIOs said cloud computing is their top tech priority for 2014. They see the advantages in terms of saving money through shared services, improved security, more robust infrastructure, and operational efficiencies generally - tons of upside.
But our public-sector friends are seldom early adopters, and they continue to struggle with transitioning to the cloud. Like turning a cargo ship, it takes a while.
State CIOs have identified the bureaucratic landscape as a big hurdle. They have to navigate within the regulatory and contractual framework, and that isn’t easy. The procurement process and pathways can tend to drive the boat – or cargo ship – at the state level.
Believe it or not I have had CIOs tell me that they are choosing or being dictated to choose their cloud solution based on the lowest acquisition cost and ease of procurement, and not best value and ability to deliver.
I understand the need for prudence since IT spending by State and Local governments is expected to increase only by 1.5 percent this year, but that underscores the need for creative new alternatives like a comprehensive cloud solution that will offer operational efficiency, reduced time to market, and elasticity, all likely leading to significant cost savings over time. The benefits of cloud cannot truly be measured in the commodity terms of dollars per bit, byte, or CPU, but instead will ultimately be measured in how it completely redefines and creates the new “norm” in the way the public sector conducts its IT business.
State and Local CIOs also grapple with the idea of letting go of their data to store it in the cloud. A little skepticism is good. Data is their most important asset, so they need to know that it’s safe.
There also needs to be a detailed exit strategy – it can’t be a door that locks behind you. I am reminded of the telecom boom in the early 2000s following government deregulation of that industry. In a matter of months you had hundreds and thousands of start-up service providers in every city and town. Fast forward a couple of years and you had very few survivors when the market was no longer shiny and new and had to be run like a real business. Many organizations did not have an exit strategy and either suffered painful transitions or paid through the nose for easier ones as a result.
Cloud computing can be a tremendous asset for State and Local governments, but they need a guiding hand.
It’s not about public cloud vs. private cloud vs. hybrid cloud. It is not one size fits all. A successful cloud strategy will likely involve all of the above, as well as on-premise infrastructure. Perhaps more than any other technology shift in our lifetime, cloud will require internal and external collaboration and partnering at new levels requiring stringent SLAs and low egos!
Making sure State and Local IT leaders understand that there is an ecosystem of partners to help them sort out their options and craft their cloud strategy is critical to ensuring that they get the most out of the cloud. And maybe save a little money.
For more insight, follow the conversation about cloud computing at NetApp or MeriTalk’s Cloud Computing Exchange http://meritalk.com/ccx and the Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group http://cloudcomputingcaucus.org/
Shawn Rodriguez, Director, State and Local Government and Education, NetApp