Cloud-Native Government: How to Transform With Intention

We’re experiencing an evolution towards a cloud-native government, where capabilities are viewed as modular and shared like a commodity. To meet mission requirements into the future, this evolution will allow agencies to continuously adapt – flexing these modular, shared cloud-based capabilities to their changing needs.

While there’s pressure to fast-track this modernization, IT leaders must take the time to build an intelligent foundation that ensures resilient cloud solutions for the long haul. This requires an intentional framework across the full cloud lifecycle: determining what goes to the cloud; how to migrate; and how to achieve long term value once you’re there.

Let’s walk through each of these areas.

What to prioritize for the cloud: Strategically select top candidates

While organizations have a myriad of systems that can be moved into the cloud, IT leaders require an intentional business case for determining cloud eligibility. There are significant factors to consider for a purposeful migration strategy, including:

  • Costs, particularly with legacy systems;
  • Risks, including potential disruption to essential activities; and
  • Levels of control gained or lost.

Rather than replacing every legacy system, agencies should focus on the systems and applications that will significantly impact mission and business outcomes with enhanced scale and flexibility. IT organizations should use continuous feedback to inform progress and leverage incremental successes to demonstrate the long-term value of a purposeful approach.

How to migrate to the cloud: Use “pathfinding” for streamlining and speed

Once an organization determines its eligible candidates for cloud migration, they need to grapple with the next set of decisions: How should applications and systems be sequenced for migration? And how exactly should they be configured?

From on-premises applications that are containerized, to those that have associated service level agreements – organizations need a strategic, repeatable mechanism to handle wildly different scenarios. It’s tempting to migrate similar applications first or containerize dissimilar applications for convenience’s sake. But a smart migration involves pathfinding principles.

With this approach, teams of IT, mission, and business stakeholders can work together to identify common migration patterns across a portfolio, developing lists of applications with similar characteristics and selecting one application from each to serve as a “pathfinder.” This informs the development of a common migration process across the mix of patterns, enabling teams to gather early lessons and create repeatable pathways for accelerating and streamlining future migrations.

It’s not always the easiest approach – often you’ll encounter tough problems along with the quick wins that build momentum and excitement – but pathfinding is strategic and focuses on enterprise-wide scalability. You’re laying the groundwork up front, then applying the lessons learned and best practices to future applications.

Where to find value in the cloud: Centralize and share resources

While agencies can look to policies such as Cloud Smart to provide a technical framework for cloud adoption, long-term value at scale requires a new operating model.

To this end, agencies are consolidating cloud expertise into Centers of Excellence, creating enterprise shared services and environments, and even exploring how to extend these services to other agencies. This approach enables IT leaders to manage cloud platforms at scale and allows technical teams to focus on mission transformation rather than on business processes.

Consider the cloud offerings being developed by agencies for agencies, like the Treasury Department’s Workplace Community Cloud, and GSA’s Cloud Marketplace. Centrally operated cloud services connect development teams to an ecosystem of foundational and enabling elements, from virtual machines to low-code platforms, so they can focus their time and energy on the agency’s mission.

Think of moving to the cloud like you’re moving to a new house. You must understand the resources required today – to know what to buy, leave, or bring with – and have a strategy for making the space work as needs evolve. We’re on a journey towards a cloud-native government that accelerates capabilities through commodity IT services – from low-code platforms to serverless architectures. Designing a purposeful cloud strategy today enables agencies to create the resilient but flexible foundation to continuously improve mission delivery at the pace of technological advancement.

About Osama Malik
Osama Malik is a vice president at Booz Allen and leads digital transformation initiatives for civil government.