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April 29, 2019

Cloud in the Federal Government: 4 Things to Consider

4 mins read

Cloud is no longer just a buzzword thrown around; it is now a heavily funded initiative. Research done by Bloomberg Government found cloud spending grew by nine percent among civilian agencies and almost 30 percent among defense agencies from fiscal years 2017 to 2018. And this trend is picking up speed. The growing need for, and push to, the cloud are creating great demand, but it causes uncertainty on how and where to navigate. Here are four specific insights on how to talk about cloud in the federal government.

1. Talk to the “Cloud Smart” Strategy

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on October 2018, made a revision to its cloud strategy – moving from “Cloud First” to “Cloud Smart”. The Cloud First initiative supplied general guidance that the Federal Government needed to move to the Cloud but did not provide specific guidance on how to accomplish cloud adoption.

The revised Cloud Smart strategy supplies greater guidance surrounding security, procurement and necessary workforce skills to foster cloud adoption and implementation. Focus on how moving an application to the cloud help meets the mission and what all needs to be done to have a fully modernized application. Help think beyond the technical requirements and consider necessary human-related components like training of staff.

2. Tie the Cloud Initiative to the Secretary’s Mission

The Agency SES needs to meet their metrics, so you can determine how the cloud will help them. Ask questions like, “What is really driving the need? How can it tie to the mission?”

One effective route to finding this information is to research agency missions and strategic plans is It is a one-stop-shop of all cabinet departments and collection of other major agencies strategic plans, performance plans and performance reports and agency priority goals. You can also find what each agency is doing and current success metrics.

3. Know the Budget

A challenge for any initiative is funding, so learn what you can about an agency budget in advance and offer insights to help the agency get the most out of their investment.

In the recently released Fiscal 2020 Budget, cloud adoption is identified as a presidential initiative. Cloud-adoption continues to show a consistent uptick in budget year-over-year. This may be different at the agency level; it is sound practice to research agencies Fiscal Year (FY) budget around cloud-related technologies. Another great resource to track forecast spending is Working Capital Fund reports. These give an idea of what type of budget requests and projects are planned for the next couple of years.

It may not be completely straightforward as doing Ctrl + F and searching “cloud”. There is a balance of art and science behind determining; it may require correlating a mission needing cloud capabilities and an increase in IT budgeting around cloud-related technologies.

4. Determine Agency Complexity

Help the Agency CIO or Program Manager identify the complexity they may encounter with a cloud project. These range from the data – quality, usage and location, policy, regulations and standards (i.e. Cloud Smart, FedRamp, FISMA, NIST, TIC), building staff and resources and understanding all the options to make a solution fit to their needs. For example, DHS monitors all DNS outbound traffic for all civilian executive branch agencies. This will help with guidance on the impact this will have on meeting compliance.

Ask questions to learn more about the agency policies and interagency connections to help them determine the complexity of their cloud systems. Questions to ask can be: Where are you at in your cloud journey? Are you aware of compliance and liability impacts? Have you started planning for the Trusted Internet Connection (TIC) policy? Have you spoken with federal agencies about their cloud experience and lessons learned?

A Road to Success

Based on insights learned from both industry and government counterparts, there are a few ways to successfully implement cloud in federal government.

One extremely efficient and effective method is through a pilot program. A pilot program is a low-cost, high impact project and can cut time to value by navigating around funding governance roadblocks (i.e. Capital Planning and Investment Control). At Excella, we routinely use pilot programs with our commercial and federal customers. The pilot allows the teams to work through the technical challenges at a small scale, build organizational buy-in, engage stakeholders to craft a clear vision and inform continuous improvement efforts as we expand the framework to more teams and agencies.

Learn more about how we helped a government agency navigate the ATO process for their cloud infrastructure.

Do you want to learn more about the Cloud Migration journey? Download our infographic “Three Approaches to Cloud Migration,” today!

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