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Federal Chief Information Officers Weigh In Concerning Cloud Modernization Challenges

Published: January 26, 2022

Federal Market AnalysisCloud ComputingInformation TechnologySurvey Findings

A recent Professional Services Council CIO survey provides insight into the challenges surrounding cloud computing and IT modernization.

Key Takeaways

  • Costs associated with cloud are rising, contrary to long-held expectations.
  • Agencies need integration tools to help make legacy data useful in cloud-based environments.
  • Governance is catching up to technology, with the goal being to improve data standardization and usability.

The Professional Service Council’s annual survey of federal Chief Information Officers came out recently. To provide a little background, the PSC surveys leading federal technology officials every year to get a sense of the issues that are of concern to them. This year’s survey report is full of insight into the state of federal information technology, including where CIOs are focused. Today’s post takes a look at some of what the officials surveyed had to say about the evolving role of cloud computing in the modernization of their IT environments.

One interesting point jumped out at me from the report’s very beginning. This is PSC’s statement that most of the executives surveyed stated their agencies have either “completed or are near completion of their migration to cloud-based systems.” One wonders if this statement is too broad because according to the government’s own reporting agencies still spend 80% of their annual IT budgets maintaining legacy systems. If this is the case, can industry expect that one day the requested budgets for these systems will simply disappear? Probably not, but this should be kept in mind when assessing the results collected by PSC.

Challenges

PSC’s survey identified several challenges that agency CIOs have encountered as they move to the cloud. This is an abbreviated list:

Rising Costs: The report mentions only a few CIOs concerned about this subject, but what those individuals said is eye-opening. IT costs are “higher than expected” since moving to the cloud, according to two respondents. A third CIO even responded that IT costs are “eating us alive!” Remember the days when cloud was proposed as a cost-saving approach to getting modernized IT capabilities and infrastructure? Maybe not so much.

Integration Tools Needed: CIOs are finding that the migration of legacy data to cloud-based systems isn’t necessarily making that data more accessible and usable. Common standards are required in order to glean insight across multiple sets of data. Integration and collaboration tools dedicated to meeting this requirement can help. PSC reports that many agencies are turning to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) capabilities to meet this need.

Evolving Data Governance: The need to improve data governance is being driven by several government-wide initiatives and trends, including the Federal Data Strategy and hiring of Chief Data Officers. Governance has also become a major issue, however, because of the amount of data now residing in cloud environments and because of the desire to share data among agency components. Agencies are still developing data governance boards in response to the growing need, reflecting the fact that leveraging cloud computing has become more than a simple “lift and shift” exercise. A combination of policy innovations and technology adoption (i.e., creating data lakes and using RPA) is required to manage the new reality of complex cloud-based IT ecosystems.