Reimagining the Future of Cloud: 4 Considerations for Federal Agencies

Each agency cloud journey has unique cases to drive strategic change.

In 2010, the federal government's "Cloud First" policy declared the cloud was the future. In 2018, the "Cloud Smart" strategy updated this policy. Leaders across the federal government recognize that the future is now, leveraging more services but also realizing that IT modernization efforts are not where they need to be ready for the future. 

Some agencies are approaching the cloud from a one-point perspective. Others are struggling to get the ball rolling on IT modernization plans. This variety of approaches challenges opportunities like artificial intelligence and automation, improved experiences, and cybersecurity readiness.

Each agency cloud journey has unique cases to drive strategic change. An effective approach includes an architectural runway and roadmap focused on business needs. Agencies thrive using agile principles aligned to mission delivery rather than infrastructure moves. But successful outcomes include thoughtful cloud strategies. 

Working with many agencies, I have seen several characteristics emerge as top-of-mind. Along the journey to these priorities the other opportunities become clear. As agencies reimagine the future of cloud, they will want to weigh these factors:

1. Adopt solution-based technology.

This takes a strategic mindset, but one that is responsive to tactical opportunities. To do this, adjust focus on technology from only its designated use, and instead think of the technology needed to address new needs. For example, be sure to watch out when the search for cost savings in the cloud overshadows mission benefits. A mission-focused agenda requires the technology offerings to innovate at an accelerated pace. Agencies that succeed in this let business, not technology, set the cloud agenda. This is also a successful strategy for reimagining cloud security. 

Understanding business needs will allow for the right solution mindset. Often, agencies focus on their current technology for their journey to the cloud. It is important that this transition goes smoothly and looks at future needs. A modular cloud model allows agencies to change architecture as programs and initiatives evolve. It speeds delivery for new efforts and rebalances resources easier between projects.

2. Prioritize tech that evolves with your organization. 

Agencies wouldn’t experience growth and change if they stayed stagnant. They need the right technology that has the capacity to grow and evolve with them. For government agencies, legacy monolithic systems feel like being stuck in concrete. Cloud ecosystems are foundations, with value delivered by their ability to respond to changes.

Most successful cloud projects are holistic collaborations at agencies built with business users, technologists, security teams and the people affected by systems. By understanding agency changes, leaders can build team expertise to meet forecasted demand. 

This includes committing to initial FedRAMP authorizations for innovative cloud solutions. Successful agencies are instilling an innovation culture, performing experiments, and adopting new cloud services. 

3. Eliminate data silos.

Massive amounts of data sit across agencies and within agencies. Those modernizing data management, self-service analysis, and deploying AI workloads with trust look to the cloud.

Cloud data services are not hampered by capacity issues, in either direction. This means handling big data work, and also supporting pipelines and analysis for smaller but important projects. It lowers the friction for data and analytics as a service and empowers everyone to use data to make informed decisions.

The cloud has the capability to encourage richer data use across organizations and build ways to securely connect to data, wherever it is. It enables the creation of virtual data pipelines for self-service and makes AI accessible to build and scale across the agency and with the public.

4. Improve customer experience. 

Cloud allows organizations to rethink and reimagine both the customer and employee experience. Legacy solutions were often built for individual touchpoints rather than the end-to-end journey. 

Smart agencies are looking for ways to transform how they deliver experiences. To do this, they replace outdated on-premises systems with cloud solutions or refactor with holistic integrations. They can then approach customer-centric trends like mobile and conversation-based computing, which helps employees and customers engage however works best for them, wherever works best for them.

Built on cloud, teams can improve business decisions, empower cybersecurity teams with intelligence to act on threats, and proactively monitor the digital environment. With this understanding, agencies deliver better customer experiences for missions.

My own journey has been from multi-time CIO and police commander to digital, cyber and trusted adviser. In two decades, I have learned that digital experiences are one piece to deliver a responsive and trustworthy government. Agency missions are collaborative environments where leaders create environments for success. Reimagining the future of cloud with these strategies can address top-of-mind needs and unlock other future benefits. By doing this, digital journeys will meet business needs and support new ways of delivering to agency missions.

Andrew Nebus is director of digital strategy at ASRC Federal.