“The development team doesn’t have expertise in databases or infrastructure and how to take advantage of a service provider’s infrastructure capabilities,” she says.
“So instead of the mundane task of patching servers, our experts can advise the development team about the best infrastructure to run an application.”
MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out how your agency can successfully migrate data to modern architectures.
State Department Moves to Ease Cloud Complexity
The State Department has historically deployed a decentralized cloud model, but this led to its bureaus and offices adopting 120 different SaaS implementations, many with the same applications. In fact, the department has 21 separate contracts with one SaaS solution.
To better manage its SaaS deployments, State opened a new cloud office that centrally manages contracts to get better pricing and create baseline management and security controls.
“We want to take the disparate cloud activities and synchronize them,” says Brian Merrick, deputy director of the Cloud Program Management Office. “That way, business users who need SaaS have a shorter time to market and don’t have to worry about the IT bureaucracy.”
State uses Office 365 and Google’s G Suite for email and collaboration on the unclassified network; ServiceNow and Salesforce for case management; Salesforce for contact management; and Box for storing and sharing unstructured data.
The department uses multiple SaaS solutions to avoid vendor lock-in and because each solution provides different benefits. For example, most users have migrated to Office 365, but employees in countries with low bandwidth use G Suite.
State’s next goal is to integrate its SaaS offerings with other apps or data, so the department needs to ensure there is a single source of data, Merrick says.
“The next thing is to manage the data layer, and it takes awhile to mature into that,” he says. “For example, if we have an application that requires a form to fill out, we want to prepopulate those forms from source system data rather than require someone to duplicate data entry.”
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Treasury Department Builds Its Own SaaS
In the Treasury Department, the Bureau of the Fiscal Service has also embraced SaaS, but with a different wrinkle: The bureau essentially built its own SaaS offering with the help of Oracle.
Previously, its Administrative Resource Center, a shared-services provider, offered Oracle’s E-Business Suite to federal agency customers by hosting financial management software in its own data centers. But a decade ago, as interest in the agency’s services surged, Treasury’s ARC needed to beef up its own IT infrastructure to accommodate more agencies.
The bureau partnered with Oracle to deliver the software through a SaaS model. Oracle hosts its E-Business Suite in the Oracle Cloud and performs all the maintenance; ARC manages a standard software configuration and relationship with its agency customers, says Miller, of the Fiscal Service, which uses the SaaS solution internally.
Since then, ARC has doubled its financial management customers to 43 agencies, including most Treasury offices and bureaus and 28 outside agencies, including Housing and Urban Development and the National Archives and Records Administration.
Customers can use the software themselves to process transactions or hire ARC to do that, as well as perform reconciliations and build financial reports, says Miller.
“We don’t have to worry about sizing of servers, load balancing, tuning databases and upgrading operating systems,” he says. “We can focus more on where we can provide value, which is financial management expertise and configuring and using the software in the best way to meet the needs of our agencies.”
ARC uses a standard software configuration, but makes improvements or revisions based on customers’ needs. ARC has also built interfaces to integrate the E-Business Suite with other agencies’ data sources and applications, such as payroll, grant management systems or third-party acquisition systems.
“A customer may have a unique need, so we might need to improve the solution, and when we do that, all of our current and future customers benefit from that,” Miller says.