The Small Business Administration has been moving full steam ahead to shutter its data centers and move applications and data to the cloud. That doesn’t mean its IT employees don’t need help and training to make the migration smooth.
SBA, like many other agencies, sometimes has trouble finding workers qualified to manage new cloud infrastructure. The skills gap underscores the importance of training users on new tools and systems so that agencies can make the most of new IT investments. In many cases, agencies can partner with universities to bolster workers’ skills.
“We are having to train people. Whether it’s offering training in house or getting them to courses, some of the free training offered around town, getting them engaged in all that training is really important regardless of where you get it,” SBA CIO Maria Roat tells Federal News Radio. “It’s good to have the formal programs as well as the informal ones where you learn from your peers.”
Understanding Cloud Computing Architecture
Importantly, Roat notes that her IT staff needs to know more than just how to do a “lift and shift” of applications, in which agencies replicate in-house apps in the cloud without modifying their original design.
Instead, she says, users need to know about all the upfront planning required for a cloud migration, especially regarding how apps and systems operate in the cloud.
The lift-and-shift approach is still prevalent in agencies and could be why some do not see many benefits of moving to the cloud. A report released earlier this year by the Government Business Council and Deloitte, based on a survey of 328 senior employees in 30 agencies across government, found that nearly one in three reported that there was no noticeable impact of moving to the cloud. Additionally, 40 percent of respondents did not know whether the impact from cloud on their organizations was positive or negative.
Deloitte recommends that agencies take a different approach to change management and use more modern techniques besides lifting and shifting, such as developing cloud-native apps.
“The big takeaways from my vantage point are that the federal leaders could improve their change management approach. Because on the one hand, they’re doing a lot on the front end to show support and to talk about the value of cloud,” Doug Bourgeois, a managing director for the technology strategy and architecture practice at Deloitte Consulting tells FedScoop. “But then after the migrations they’re not really coming back and sharing with their own agencies that you know, cloud provided these values and these benefits, and things like that.”
UMUC Expands Opportunities for Cloud Training
University of Maryland University College hopes to help agencies fill the cloud skills gap with its new master’s program in cloud architecture and management, Federal News Radio reports.
Pete Young, a senior vice president of analytics, planning and technology at UMUC, told the publication that the need for more cloud training was evident after he led an effort to move the university into the cloud. The new program is designed to give students a deeper understanding of the cloud and then help their employers manage migrations.
The program brought together experts from the private sector and government to help identify the specific skills and capabilities that are needed, and then program administrators worked backwards to design courses, programs and projects to give them the skills they need in the workplace.
“Our program is really based on our experience of the difficulty of finding and retaining qualified staff and just as important the development of existing employees,” Young tells Federal News Radio. “There are very few programs around cloud available, which was one of the reasons why we decided to start this program, although many programs have elements of this. This is really a cloud focused program.”
According to Federal News Radio, the “online courses include cloud management, focusing on the principles and practices about managing in a cloud environment; cloud infrastructure planning, design and configurations; and cloud orchestration, which has the students designing, planning, implementing and doing a complete cloud migration.”
Agency employees working in the cloud need to know how data moves in the cloud and how they can use that information to meet mission needs, Roat tells Federal News Radio. She also says that users must know whether the data needs to be encrypted at-rest, in transit or both if they want to understand cloud architecture.
Training programs like the one at UMUC are critical to the federal CIO community, Roat says. She plans to spread the word about the program through the CIO Council and other channels in the federal IT community.
Roat also highlights the importance of continual training. “To maintain relevance, to continue to further your education, it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old or middle-aged, you own your career. You have a responsibility if you want to continue in this field to remain relevant,” she tells Federal News Radio. “You do have to go out and get training on your own. There is only so much that I can do. I will offer free training, pay for what I can, but employees own their career and own their training.”