Panelists at an ATARC conference highlighted the importance of workers, not just technologists understanding the cloud to enhance its efforts.
When it comes to cloud migration, all workers need to have the right skills to use and understand the technology, according to government and industry experts that spoke at a panel hosted by the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center on Thursday. This training and education is not limited to technologists, because other workers will impact the cloud and should understand it.
“Only 8% of technologists have the extensive cloud skills to actually deliver on cloud computing,” Drew Firment, head cloud strategist at Pluralsight, said. “Cloud is a culture, there is a language. You need to get out of the echo chamber of 8%.”
Removing that echo chamber requires organizations to “democratize cloud education,” he explained.
“There’s a lot of strategies associated with that, but you’re never going to get to that promise in cloud computing if you’re thinking about cloud tactically like infrastructure. Where you’re probably thinking about your people the same way, right? You need to invest as much in migrating talent to the cloud, as you are investing strategically in cloud computing,” Firment said.
It is not just important for technologists to be trained in the cloud, but also contractors, procurement officials, and other workers need to understand more about the cloud to effectively use it. For example, the General Services Administration is working to educate contractors about the cloud to help them better perform their own jobs.
“We’re very interested in getting the contracting world acquainted with cloud, after all, it’s such a mystery to most people,” Skip Jentsch, cloud products manager at GSA, said. “So what we do is provide these public webinars. It’s basically cloud for dummies, and we explain the differences between infrastructure and platform software-as-a-service very quickly, but then we get into the benefits of how agencies can change their culture towards the top of the stack into the application management world and not the server management world. And so what we do is educate those contracting officers as contracting specialists—with internal at GSA and external across the federal government—to get that cloud education a little further out of the IT basement and into the program area and into the contracting world.”
Jentsch added that since the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance at these webinars has increased and there is an increasing number of attendees from program and contracting roles, as opposed to IT-focused jobs.
Officials may also have to find creative ways to show that more money needs to be spent on cloud migration efforts, as they work with procurement officials.
“Most procurement officials, when they deal with IT, are used to buying a software license out of a box that you pay for once a year, and it goes for 12 months.” Guy Cavallo, chief information officer at the Office of Personnel Management, said. “What I’ve had to do is print out the consumption chart versus predicted future use and take it to the head of procurement and say, ‘Okay, my contract is not up till March; I'm going to run out of money in December; it’s okay for us to put more money on it. This is like buying electricity. It’s like a [blanket purchasing agreement].’ But until I showed them that chart that we weren't going to make it to March, they’re like ‘Guy hang on to March and then at your annual renewal, put more money on it.’ So you know, GSA’s work is really a lot of help … And I highly recommend that you keep your chart of your consumption and have that available and start about two months before you run out of money, so that they have time to absorb it.”
The panelists noted that innovation is not limited to a specific group, rather, it is a necessary mentality that must be fostered.
“I’m not a big fan of equating innovation with young people,” Andre Mendes, chief information officer at the Department of Commerce, said. “There’s a lot of people in the federal sector that are in their 50s, their 60s and are unbelievable innovators…You either want to be an iconoclastic innovator or you don’t. And you have to have an environment that allows you to do so. We need to nurture innovation.”