Cloud as a Catalyst for IT Modernization

Published: June 14, 2018

Cloud Computing

Last week federal and industry IT executives gathered for an on-going discussion centered around best practices, lessons learned, and future prospects for cloud computing in the federal government. Meritalk organized the event, held at the Newseum’s Conference Center.

Discussions included speakers and panelists who spoke candidly about the impact of cloud on shared services, the Internet of Things, digital transformation, next generation technologies and a culture of innovation.

During the panel discussion about shared services empowered by cloud, Crystal Philcox, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Category Management at GSA, stated that this was an “unprecedented time for cloud.” With the Executive Order focused on shared services, the move to more digital delivery, the MGT Act, Congressional support and efforts to modernize IT in government, “we’ve never had this kind of coalescence before,” Philcox said.

GSA is putting together a cloud information center to help agencies with cloud computing education and decisions.  Also GSA’s Customer Engagement and Solutions Development Division (CESDD) can help agencies with cloud acquisition decisions and provide pre-competed contracts and cloud acquisition expertise.  

On this same panel, Rod Turk, Acting CIO & CISO for the Department of Commerce, shared the three Cs that he uses to guide his IT organization and modernization efforts: Change, Culture and Capability. Turk stated that Change is inevitable.  And in terms of shared services,” We’re at a tipping point of commodity IT.”  IT is embedded in everything and is expected to work. From a commodity IT perspective, it makes sense to collapse common services and gain good pricing. 

In Turk’s organization, he looks at Culture to determine whether they have the culture in place to implement IT rapidly and have it accepted.  For Capability, he must decide if he has the people, knowledge, training, funding, change management and the ability to make the change before implementing or migrating to a new system or technology. 

Jason Martin, Services Directorate Executive at DISA, manages large heterogeneous environments and along with that, his biggest challenge is making sure everything is secure.  He’s always asking, “How does new tech mesh with their security standards (PKI, etc.).” He suggested that there should be four Cs which would include Cybersecurity.  

Todd Simpson, Chief Product Officer and Executive Director for HHS’ Office of Enterprise Application Development, said that his new position is “the embodiment of the vision to provide shared services to a very federated environment.”  Workforce optimization is helping them to identify services that exist across the bureaus and exploit the (Authorizations to Operate) ATOs that are already in effect.

Former Federal CIO, Tony Scott, advised everyone to “never waste a good crisis” during his fireside chat with Meritalk founder Steve O’Keefe.  He said that the OPM incident was eye-opening for federal cybersecurity.  There was cyber awareness prior to the incident, but it was a “galvanizing event that brought it to the forefront and drove action.”  

Scott described federal IT workforce vacancies as “a crisis that keeps getting worse.” He doesn’t see an immediate solution. He offered that automation could provide some assistance and is necessary.  He also believes agencies need to simplify and better align with their missions.  Scott believes the federal government needs to increase hiring and that there are a number of creative ideas regarding attracting people to work for government. He mentioned an exchange program he created while at Microsoft with some of their customers and cited it as “one of the best staff development programs I’ve ever done.” 

Tim Bock, Public Sector CTO with Virtustream, and Peter Durand, VP of the Federal Sector at Acquia, provided an industry perspective on federal cloud implementation, stating that cloud can be a way to drive innovation in agencies and greatly reduce the time to market for IT implementation.