If your agency isn’t currently deploying Platform-as-a-Service, it’s a safe bet it will be soon.
That’s because PaaS is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 41 percent through 2016, according to Market Monitor. The civil side of the federal government expects to spend $643 million on PaaS next year.
The investment represents the next logical step in the “as a service” model. Many agencies are already using Software as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service. If you’re looking for a new tech capability and you can’t spend time developing it in-house, you turn to SaaS to acquire and implement it quickly. If you want seven servers right away, this is where IaaS steps in.
Think of PaaS, then, as the mortar that holds together SaaS and IaaS. With PaaS, platforms are brought into an agency immediately, to accelerate application delivery. They arrive pre-tested, with the ability to scale on demand. This means you won’t launch a project and undergo laborious steps to bring in the platforms needed to make it work. (That scenario delays projects, and often leads to teams working with outdated business requirements because – by the time they get the platform in place – those requirements are at least several months old.)
PaaS represents a major shift with regard to the building, deploying and improving of applications (within federal constraints, of course), while increasing the speed of systems changes. What previously took at least a month now gets done in a week. Or by tomorrow.
In a broader, governmentwide sense, PaaS can benefit your agency in the following ways:
Reinventing your service delivery model. You can look at all of your agency’s business demands and assess the value of your existing service delivery chain. What has to be re-engineered to ensure lasting, measurable success? What will allow operations to continue to thrive, even with inevitable budget constraints for the indefinite future? (Among other reductions: The White House has proposed $73.7 billion in cuts for the Department of Health and Human Services, just over $38 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and $42.5 for the State Department and additional international programs.)
It’s about doing more with less now. By identifying what you need for the long haul to enhance your service delivery while still eliminating expenses, you’ll know which applications to pursue. With PaaS, you commoditize application development, so you can implement new tools faster, better, cheaper.
Fostering experimentation. Clearly, government policies and bureaucracies restrict innovation. But federal initiatives like the Open Innovator's Toolkit are encouraging leaders to embrace experimentation in the interest of discovering nimbler approaches to tech advancements. Within such a culture, staffers come up with new, unifying workflows which can make everyone perform at a higher level. PaaS greatly helps here, because it reduces the burden of IT. With traditional tech resourcing projects, for example, IT accounts for nearly all of the team members, with only a few being from the business side. PaaS reverses this, giving business the bigger voice. You’re no longer developing systems, you’re configuring them. You’re not coding. You’re adding new, effective “tech parts.”
Bringing it all together. Thanks to continued, siloed structures, we still see too many “Towers of Babel” out there, as agencies oversee different areas and functions that “speak their own language” with respect to spreadsheet terminologies, process steps and forms. A federal manager once confided to me he’d often spend hours upon hours attempting to comprehend three or five spreadsheets sent to him from multiple areas. He’d pull out a highlighter and try to “match” a term from one sheet to another. If you align nomenclatures, you’ll avoid such time-consuming efforts.
Then, you’ll find that initiating consistency is the first step toward a consolidated enterprise, as opposed to one dominated by silos. With the language unified, you can start to merge functions, increasing productivity while eliminating costs and complexities. Through PaaS, you’ll reduce your dependence on multiple vendors while increasing collaboration – with faster completion cycles.
In other words, you’ll reinvent your service delivery models. A culture of experimentation will produce outcomes which resonate with business needs more swiftly. If an experiment doesn’t work out, no problem. PaaS leaves agencies with plenty of room for error here. You can fail quickly, learn from mistakes and immediately move on – instead of waiting six months or longer to figure out why something didn’t work and stranding precious investment dollars.
In the end, a PaaS-driven organization doesn’t seek to replace everything it has. It’s looking to reduce the time, effort and cost involved in getting better results. Your employees will be more engaged due to an augmented sense of accomplishment. And your agency will move forward with innovation in ways you could never imagine before. The whole “as a service” movement isn’t about waiting for good things to happen, after all. It’s about doing good things now.