Feb 27 2012

Cloud Adoption Tips and Best Practices

Agency CIO lays out four strategies to smooth the transition to the cloud.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority has turned to cloud computing to help it deal with significant reductions in its annual IT budget. With this experience in hand, CIO Chris Webber offered these tips for cloud adoption.

1. Involve all stakeholders. When considering software as a service, let users in on the decision-making process. Find out their requirements and allow them to take part in vendor product demonstrations and beta testing of software, Webber says.

2. Transition, then innovate. When moving to a cloud service, first replicate what the agency already has and make sure the software works. Once the transition is done, IT staff can innovate and improve upon the software, Webber says.

For example, when FLRA transitioned to an online database for its case-tracking system, the IT staff first made sure the software worked smoothly and that users could produce reports from that data. Now, the IT staff is creating an e-filing application, allowing people to file labor complaints online, he says.

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel. When looking for cloud services, take advantage of other agencies that have gone through a certification and accreditation process with a cloud vendor.

For example, Google has already gone through the C&A process with the General Services Administration for cloud e-mail. GSA’s effort could give FLRA a head start if it were to choose the same cloud provider. “I can take GSA’s C&A, review it and make sure I can accept the same risks,” Webber says. “A nine- to 12-month process can be reduced to weeks and save tens of thousands of dollars.”

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program will aid the approval and acquisition process, Webber says. Once the government approves a cloud provider through FedRAMP, other agencies can use that cloud provider’s services without having to go through their own costly and lengthy approval process. 

4. Know which skills are required. FLRA’s migration to the cloud required the development efforts of software engineers experienced with its platform. Because cloud applications are just now gaining traction, finding qualified candidates capable of implementing an enterprise-level cloud application can be a significant challenge, Webber says. While the coding language is easy to pick up, developers with a niche skill set may be required to lead the development team.