Many gov IT managers unsure about cloud strategy, study finds
Despite the growing demand for cloud services, many government IT managers are unsure of their organization's overall cloud strategy and the resources available to purchase and implement cloud services, a survey of top IT officials across federal, state and local government revealed.
Government organizations that are spending on cloud computing tend to be those that have first dealt with foundation issues such as enterprise and services-oriented architectures, according to the new IDC Government Insights report.
The study measured the progress of cloud solutions at government agencies while also examining the related enterprise architecture needs.
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The survey was conducted in the late spring of 2012 and measured the responses of more than 400 government IT employees at various levels. About half of the participants work for the federal government.
More than a third of the respondents lacked knowledge of cloud budgeting, which indicates that employee outreach clearly is necessary to boost enterprise-wide understanding of cloud strategies and budgets, the reports states.
The Defense Department had the most respondents who felt cloud was very important, which is logical, given that DOD has spent a lot of time and effort over the past few years building up a viable SOA, according to the report.
Having a solid services-oriented architecture is one of the first steps toward being able to plug a variety of external IT services into an enterprise network, noted Shawn McCarthy, research director with IDC Government Insights.
"If your agency has not focused its enterprise architecture efforts on building an environment that will help you to take advantage of some cloud services, then that should be a primary effort right now,” said McCarthy, who also is a columnist for GCN. Federal agencies are further along with the implementation of enterprise architectures compared with state and local government, he said.
After making sure they have a functioning SOA, agencies moving to the cloud then pick low-hanging fruit to transition to the cloud, commodity applications such as e-mail.
Collaboration solutions are the top applications being moved to the cloud. Thirty-nine percent of the respondents say they have or will deploy such solutions to the cloud, while 35.9 percent have or plan to move business intelligence applications and office productivity applications. Thirty-three percent have deployed customer relationship management systems in the cloud.
From a state and local perspective, local government respondents were most likely to rank cloud as less important overall, which was a surprise, McCarthy said.
“It is kind of surprising local government isn’t moving a bit faster into the cloud,” he said. There might be two factors behind the local government response. For one, it takes money to invest in the cloud and with tight budgets and low tax bases, local government might not have the funds.
But, the other factor is the need for outreach. Cloud has to be implemented by regional groups, perhaps, with states offering cloud services to local entities or regional groups coming together and hosting human resource systems for 20 towns, McCarthy said.