Apr 02 2018

Why Cloud Adoption Remains Uneven for Feds

Seven years after the introduction of a governmentwide cloud-first policy, security concerns remain a key obstacle to cloud migration.

The governmentwide push for cloud adoption has been a key strategic priority for federal agencies since Vivek Kundra, the first federal CIO, announced a cloud-first strategy in 2011. This strategy directed federal agencies to evaluate safe, secure cloud computing options before making any new technology investments.

In the seven years since its release, the cloud-first strategy has accelerated the pace of public sector cloud adoption and migration, and has transformed the culture of the cloud in the federal government.

As Federal Deputy CIO Margie Graves has said, with the cloud, “it’s no longer a conversation about if, but when and how.” Cloud is becoming more prevalent among agencies, including those in the intelligence community, allaying early fears that it was not secure enough to conduct government business. Still, cloud adoption remains an ongoing challenge at many organizations.

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What Is the State of Federal Cloud Adoption?

A recent Government Business Council survey, underwritten by Avaya, sought to identify the successes and challenges tied to government cloud adoption.

The poll, “Securing the Cloud,” found that only 5 percent of government agencies have finalized their cloud migration, 30 percent of agencies’ cloud migrations are still ongoing and 9 percent of agencies are still in the process of planning their migration.

A troubling revelation was that half of government agencies polled do not know the state of their agency’s cloud migration, and an additional 5 percent have no plans for migration whatsoever. So, although some agencies have made progress, these results indicate that a great deal more needs to occur.

Security Remains a Leading Challenge to Cloud Adoption

In terms of obstacles preventing agencies from realizing the full benefits of the cloud, the poll found that security remains the leading concern.

Almost one-quarter of agencies responded that security was their primary hurdle preventing cloud adoption, well ahead of legacy application integration, which was the next highest at only 7 percent.

Although government agencies have made great strides in securing public, private and hybrid cloud environments, security is still top of mind.

The Trump administration has acknowledged this ongoing concern, and has indicated that a revamp of the problematic Trusted Internet Connections Initiative is on the horizon. In tandem with leading software-defined networking solutions, this should help agencies to simplify their trusted networks, allowing them to better realize the benefits of in-demand cloud applications.

Cloud Makes Collaboration and Communication More Efficient

What are the most in-demand cloud applications for today’s agencies? The survey identified email (42 percent) and workplace collaboration tools (41 percent) as the most helpful cloud applications by the highest share of respondents.

A sizable one-third of respondents felt that calendaring and scheduling applications (32 percent) and internal communication tools (30 percent) were the most helpful cloud applications.

However, in what emerged as a clear trend in the survey, 41 percent of those polled said that they were unaware of how their agency could benefit from cloud applications.

These benefit trends point to a growing need for a mobile federal workforce. As modern workspaces expand beyond the traditional office space to include employees working from home or distributed locations, the need for cloud-centric communications and collaboration tools will only continue to grow.

As these survey results clearly demonstrate, for federal agencies seeking to enable telework and gain associated productivity benefits, cloud-based collaboration will be the primary solution for making that happen.

Additionally, as agencies work to further their cloud positioning, it is important that they are viewing their cloud technology portfolio as a comprehensive whole, rather than a smattering of disconnected pieces. After all, the beauty of the cloud is that applications are not siloed off from one another, but are working together in an integrated fashion.

By joining the cloud collaboration tools highlighted by agencies in the survey — voice, video, data, email and messaging, conferencing, mobility, etc. — agencies can begin taking advantage of a fully unified communications strategy that will allow them to maximize productivity and enable growing trends such as telework.

The Road Ahead for Federal Cloud Adoption

Clearly, significant progress has been made since the issuance of the cloud-first initiative seven years ago. However, despite the continued momentum that cloud solutions and services enjoy, the “Securing the Cloud” survey shows that the government still desperately needs cloud advocates.

There are still unacceptable levels of uncertainty among government agencies across all categories — from adoption to challenges and benefits.

As the administration works to alleviate some of the leading obstacles to the cloud, agencies should also be doing their part to continue the spirit of the cloud-first initiative. They should assess where they are using cloud technology and where they could receive added benefits from migrating to the cloud.

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