Show Cloud Impact Early and Often to Boost Adoption

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Find early wins and share them often, Veterans Affairs and Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency officials said.

When it comes to cloud adoption, agency leaders should over-communicate and demonstrate small wins early and often, federal officials with firsthand experience said at the Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit in Washington this week.

As the director of Veterans Affairs Enterprise Cloud Solutions Office, David Catanoso is leading the agency’s workload migration to AWS GovCloud with 40 applications and growing already transitioned. Chief Information Officer George Gagne and Chief Data Officer Christopher McDermott at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency helped produce a comprehensive data mart for over 33,000 records to quickly track missing personnel using AWS GovCloud. The insiders reflected on the pains and promises of cloud migration.

“When you make that transition to a cloud environment architecture, whether it’s your support staff or user base there’s an apprehension that’s going to exist with a sense of feeling or loss of control or the unknown,” Gagne said. “I don’t think there’s any such thing as over-communicating in that environment and when you’re dealing with this, it’s being as open and transparent and honest about it as how can it work to [all stakeholders’] advantage.”

To do that, the panelists said it is critical to demonstrate little victories early on.

“Don’t step back and try to come up with this elaborate plan for all the applications in your organization and how you might migrate them over the years and wait to do something,” Catanoso said. “Right away start trying to get early wins on the board. Try to go out and identify low hanging fruit or high-value things that you can migrate to demonstrate that capability and build on that—that’s key.”

Catanoso said because VA has many critical missions that frankly can’t fail, there was a great deal of concern about security and reliability in the cloud, ahead of the initial migrations. But as those insiders started to witness some of the early success, they became more interested in learning about and working with the new technology.

“Until we got one or two major applications out and demonstrated it could work in the cloud, those concerns were very intense,” he said. “But as we demonstrated that it would work, we started to build credibility and momentum and confidence that ‘you know what, we can actually do this as a team.”

DPAA’s officials reiterated that learning.

“When you’re promising somebody something and it takes two years to see the result, it just gets difficult to maintain their confidence and trust that you’re actually steering it in the direction that you want to go,” McDermott said.   

For him and Gagne’s team, it was demonstrating how new business intelligence software could rapidly increase their work time by freeing them up from spending hours on projects in Powerpoint.

“Quick wins is certainly a way to get to that innovation and adopting the change in culture,” Gagne said.