Truly committing to innovation and the cloud

Government's success is enabled by using contracting practices that reward rather than discourage new ideas and approaches.

Shutterstock image (by Maksim Kababou): cloud technology concept.

Government's success is enabled by using contracting practices that reward rather than discourage new ideas and approaches, David Wennergren writes.

In December, the Professional Services Council released a report titled "Best Practices for Federal Agency Adoption of Commercial Cloud Solutions," which highlights the compelling value proposition of transitioning to a commercial cloud provider and provides specific best practices to help ensure success. The report also highlights real-world examples to build confidence that agencies can successfully move to the cloud.

The fact that a report advocating migration to the cloud is still needed is worth discussing. While we should rightly applaud the bold moves to the cloud -- including by agencies with highly sensitive missions, such as the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office -- there are still reluctance and slow adoption at a number of agencies. PSC's 2015 CIO Survey noted that only 8 percent of federal CIOs were satisfied with the level of progress their agencies had made in implementing cloud-based solutions.

There are clearly change management challenges that still require our attention. Giving up personal control is hard for all of us, so it should be no surprise that agencies feel more comfortable owning their own infrastructure, data centers and systems. But this false sense of security needs to be cast aside. Now.

Aging and obsolete infrastructure and systems at some agencies preclude adoption of 21st-century technology and dramatically increase cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Despite agencies' qualms about relying on someone else to deliver capabilities, if done correctly, a cloud solution can offer better security than the porous environment found in too many places today.

Moving to the cloud also addresses the difficulty of having to obtain hard-to-find development and modernization funds to buy and build new systems. Frankly, the value proposition of paying only for what you use has never been more compelling.

It's been five years since the Office of Management and Budget issued its "cloud first" policy. It's time to pick up the pace and embrace the change that will accelerate the retirement of equipment that is no longer supported and improve the security of our information and systems. As the report notes, the willingness to stretch beyond our comfort zone and embrace consumption-based contracting and service-level agreements will pay big dividends.

December also saw the release of a white paper endorsed by the Technology Councils of North America, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the California Technology Council and PSC titled "Delivering Results: A Framework for Federal Government Technology Access and Acquisition." Those four associations -- representing a variety of communities, including thousands of start-ups -- agree on a set of common principles to ensure access to the full array of capabilities that exist in the private sector and could enhance the performance of federal technology programs.

Although there is great enthusiasm for more engagement with Silicon Valley, it is important to understand why some start-ups don't want to do business with the government. And we must never lose sight of the fact that innovation isn't limited to a geographic location but rather is available from both established companies and new entrants nationwide.

The white paper touches on several of the same themes that the cloud report does. Government's success is enabled by using contracting practices that reward rather than discourage new ideas and approaches. Embracing industry best practices, such as cloud, and adopting outcome-based measures to track the progress of our plans will allow the government to harness technology to deliver more effective mission results.