Treasury exec: Cloud helps you leap ahead, but be ready for change

Moving to the cloud can help agencies leapfrog into new electronic technologies that will help them deliver service more efficiently. But if you don't want to explore new ways of doing business, there is very little benefit in moving to the cloud, a Treasury executive told an audience at the FOSE Conference and Exposition.

For example, cloud computing has given the Treasury Department the ability to jump into the next decade of electronic invoicing, Adam Goldberg, executive architect for Treasury’s Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation, said during a panel discussion April 4.

Treasury offers e-invoicing as a shared service to other agencies. With e-invoicing, vendors send the federal government information electronically and enter information on the government’s behalf. The benefits of moving from a manual to an electronic environment are realized fairly quickly.

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However, a challenge is convincing some reluctant agencies to move quickly into mass technology.

Although Treasury is promoting the benefits and savings associated with e-invoicing, there are still agencies that are scanning invoices and having people manually enter information into systems.

“So, what makes it attractive will also be the biggest change management exercise” Goldberg said. Treasury has to demonstrate to agencies that they will not miss out on benefits by moving to the cloud.

“Moving to the cloud will not in and of itself revolutionize financial management,” he said. Cloud is just the infrastructure. However, “if an agency is reluctant to look at new ways of doing business, there is very little business benefit of moving to the cloud itself," Goldberg noted.

Treasury is looking at other areas where moving to a cloud-based environment could deliver benefits for the taxpayer, such as receivables, Goldberg said. Here, the government might be able to use the expertise of the private sector, which might have more expertise and innovative tools, to assist the government in exploiting data and collecting more receivables.

Most federal officials recognize that they need to get better cost savings from government, said Evan Burfield, CEO of Synteractive. Government may have to go through a transformation similar to industry's, in which companies such as Amazon turned all of its components into services.

By decomposing everything into thousands of discrete Web services, you can recompose into hundreds of different businesses. For instance, Amazon is not just a bookseller or an e-commerce company; it also provides infrastructure-as-a-service to the government and fulfillment services to corporations. This was possible because Amazon decomposed and recomposed services with tremendous efficiency

That type of activity is all about the platform. Government will probably have to go through a similar transformation, Burfield said. There is a debate now across the federal government, for instance, about whether there is a need for one, two or five shared services for e-invoicing. The answer might be zero because there are commercial providers that can offer better e-invoicing services than the government, he said.

Treasury’s Goldberg disagreed, however, because Treasury does have an e-invoicing solution available to agencies at no cost. Treasury officials think they can be competitive because of the type of work done at the department.

The whole arena of decomposing and recomposing services makes the government and the private sector competitors in some respects, said Mark Day, director of strategic solutions with the General Services Administrations’ Office of Integrated Technology Service. If the government has a solution, fine; if the private sector has a solution, fine, he said.

In the financial management arena there is a role for both the public and private sector, Goldberg said. “Some of us might be technology deliverers.” On the service side is where the public sector might have a role to play because of the function itself, he said.

Moving forward, there will be more of a collaborative environment for the private and public sectors. “The private sector has the advantage because they can stand up solutions much quicker than we can in the federal space,” Goldberg said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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