Mar 30 2015

How Feds Move Forward with SaaS

IT managers say SaaS can reduce costs and make the federal workforce more productive, but it requires careful planning.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has embraced Software as a Service applications but is deploying them in a cautious and deliberate manner.

“Purchasing SaaS applications will not result in cost savings or productivity alone,” says Nancy Reeves-Flores, acting deputy CIO for operations. “We are expeditiously developing a framework for integrating SaaS into the blueprint of USDA technology. We believe a proper framework and thoughtful design of SaaS can produce cost savings and increased customer productivity, but only if done with purpose.”

Reeves-Flores says USDA looks to accomplish four goals in deploying SaaS apps: reduce the administrative burden, stay current with technology, provide new capabilities and attain greater effectiveness or efficiencies.


The percentage of IT managers who say that overall cost reduction continues to be the primary reason their organizations adopted SaaS

SOURCE: Gartner, “Survey Analysis: Buyers Reveal Cloud Application Adoption Plans Through 2017,” November 2014

USDA leads the BMC Remedy service management deployment, an experience that Reeves-Flores says has been positive. The agency has completed the initial customization work in the cloud development environment and, next, will migrate the infrastructure and begin testing. Once complete, USDA will launch user acceptance tests and begin training.

“We are making slow but steady progress on the FedRAMP certification and assessment processes,” Reeves-Flores says. “The majority of the challenges can be ascribed to the necessarily complex interaction of agency, FedRAMP and vendor participants and the relative newness of the procedures.”

Robert Mahowald, program vice president for SaaS and cloud services at IDC, says the USDA experience with cloud services aligns with much of IDC’s recent research.

“We found that 65 percent of organizations say they use some aspect of the cloud today,” Mahowald says. “And this corresponds to both IT departments and line-of-business organizations.”

A Healthy Mix

Dwayne Rollins, service manager for application hosting at Health and Human Services, says the agency plans to roll out a mix of SaaS apps for 10,000 workers across HHS.

The team will use Microsoft Office 365 for office applications, SharePoint Online for document management, Microsoft Exchange Online for email and Cisco Systems' WebEx for collaboration and conferencing.

“Microsoft Exchange Online has become the new email standard for HHS,” Rollins says, adding that the new SaaS apps will be deployed this summer.