IT professionals across the United States are organizing one of the most impactful technology transformations in a generation: the cloud adoption journey of the United States Federal Government. In some ways, the Federal Government’s path towards cloud maturity mirrors that of the private sector — both are harnessing the cloud’s benefits to operational flexibility and efficiency, with public officials seeing the enterprise cloud model as a bellwether for the future standard of national security operations and public-facing service delivery

What’s important to note, however, is that government IT professionals operate in an entirely different ecosystem than their private sector counterparts— one that includes complex, high-stakes mission sets and a budget of taxpayer dollars overseen by Congress, among other notable differences.

It becomes imperative, then, that federal CTOs and CIOs map a clear and strategic journey towards cloud maturity, implementing solutions that are optimized for drivers, priorities, and missions of their respective organizations. Without such a roadmap, not only are government agencies at risk of falling into operational challenges that compromise their ultimate goal of mission delivery – they do so at the taxpayer’s expense.

With these unique factors in mind, how can government IT leaders embrace cloud efficiently, and with purpose, to achieve the greatest potential outcomes for their stakeholders?

Strategic priorities for cloud transformation

Recent global events have created a newfound sense of urgency to drive towards cloud implementation among government officials at all levels—the combination of Covid-19, supply chain challenges, and ongoing inflation has served as the ultimate stress test, and cloud-enabled solutions served as foundational components in the critical new services that were stood up at high velocity to address these events. IT leaders in the public sector, and across industry, have learned from this period in which tremendous digital agility was critical, and now have the space to make decisions about the future:

How can this progress be harnessed in a purposeful way across government? And as over half of agencies are projected to migrate critical applications to the cloud by 2025, how will those investments be structured to enable improved mission resilience and effective stewardship of taxpayer funds?

One-off or disparate investments in cloud solutions won’t drive results or spark innovation—and may lead to fractures in security or operations. As agencies embark on large-scale cloud transformation, they should look to build the following priorities into a strategic and multi-year roadmap:

  • Multi-cloud integration
    The general shift towards platform-as-a-service and software-as-a-service adoption is accelerating modernization for IT organizations, but the integration between environments is complex: How can cloud services communicate with one another effectively? How can information be aggregated in a standard way for security monitoring? In the near term, organizations need integration between—and visibility across—all environments, so leaders can have a holistic view of the cloud landscape, comprehensively and centrally manage security and compliance, and better leverage cloud as a driver of broader modernization efforts.
  • Standardization
    Getting the most out of enterprise cloud involves understanding what’s being used across an organization and a cataloging of products, capabilities, and services that are being utilized and paid for. With that complete picture in hand, leaders can start to examine opportunities to optimize storage and compute, and consolidate toward a core set of shared services. This shared model not only brings down the cost of ownership but also helps facilitate innovation: development teams have access to a baseline of tools and services, that they can then customize for specific project needs and requirements.
  • Automation
    Cloud service providers are bringing automation services to market every day and are making them available for use at the highest levels of security. The integration of automated services reduces manual and repetitive processes so that employees can focus on high-value tasks with the most impact. Despite the upfront legwork required to strategically harness automation within agencies, frontloading such efforts pays down technical debt, advances the security posture and platform stability, and accelerates time to deployment — a critical advantage when the mission is urgent.
  • Financial Management
    Organizations are sometimes surprised by the expenses that come with cloud migration and transformation. The reality is that favorable economics in the cloud requires a dedicated focus on optimization to ensure that cloud services are right sized for business and mission needs. Over the long term, decisions need to be around made how much virtual space is truly necessary, what instances should be available on demand, and which data should be backed up and in what state of availability. With financial management as a key priority along the roadmap that is heightened by the closely monitored budget environment of the Federal Government, organizations should position themselves to can make the most strategic tradeoffs between cloud architecture and IT budgets.

Bringing a cloud journey to life

While government organizations can proactively map out their cloud journey, to avoid major pitfall, there isn’t a straight path to cloud transformation. And doing things the right way often means investing time and resources into a longer and more involved planning process to set the stage for meaningful organizational impact down the road.

But taking extra measures from the beginning across operations and IT, and avoiding the temptation to cut in areas like integration and automation, ensures an agency isn’t allocating taxpayer dollars to pay for poor decisions over the long term.

With a comprehensive multi-year strategy, and a vision for cloud that is built to operate in high-stakes environments, government organizations can chart a path to cloud that maximizes the effectiveness of their broad application portfolio and transform mission delivery.