Deciphering cloud services in the federal government
By Kevin Noonan, Chief Analyst, Practice Leader for Public Sector, Ovum
Wednesday, 18 July, 2018
Federal cloud services have made huge strides in recent years, but challenges remain.
Cloud services as an umbrella term continues to be one of the hot topics for government managers, but the real-life implications of cloud transition can be much more nuanced.
Recently, Ovum completed its latest in a series of surveys of cloud services in the Australian federal government, building on the results of an earlier 2015 survey. The two surveys show a clear change in the government market, as it evolves and becomes more comfortable with cloud.
Policy and planning are important ingredients in government for setting cloud direction, but these ingredients need to be supported by a strategy of cultural change within the enterprise.
The 2015 survey found that government policy was the top business driver for moving to the cloud. At first glance, this would appear to be a welcome response, indicating that government cloud policy had achieved its objective. However, more in-depth assessment revealed a very different interpretation of these results. Other survey responses in the 2015 survey showed that ‘government policy’ was also the highest priority business use case. Follow-up face-to-face interviews revealed a high degree of suspicion of cloud solutions. Many agencies were reluctantly moving to cloud and were doing it only because it was government policy. In 2015, the key message was about a forced march, which was lacking energy and commitment to cloud transition.
Getting on with the job
The 2018 survey clearly showed that the government marketplace had changed considerably. While government policy still ranked high in survey responses, it was just one of many business opportunities being explored using the cloud. Government managers were no longer focusing on whether cloud would do the job, but on how to drive and manage the transition to cloud-based solutions.
Shadow IT was also an issue that was heavily nuanced in survey responses. Many saw cloud as a way of dealing with shadow IT, because cloud-enabled IT services seem to be more agile and more responsive to changing business needs. However, there was also a darker side to shadow IT. Cloud has opened the door to a plethora of unapproved cloud solutions. During the face-to-face interviews, one business manager noted that it was possible to use non-IT funds to spin up a solution, run the solution and then spin it down, before anybody even noticed.
Cybersecurity now a strength
Cybersecurity was the area of significant change in the period between the two surveys. The 2015 survey reported significant concerns that commercial cloud offerings were not up to the job of meeting stringent government requirements. Many government managers were unconvinced. The 2018 survey reported a significant turnaround. This time, security was listed as the top reason for transitioning to the cloud. Even though there are heightened concerns about cybersecurity, cloud is now seen as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
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