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Cloud strategy smoothed State Department’s shift to remote work

The cloud is your friend in tough times, said Stuart McGuigan, CIO of the State Department’s Bureau of Information Resource Management. The State Department began moving its operations to the cloud in 2019, and while it wasn’t completely prepared to have all of its employees work remotely, it wasn’t caught flat-footed by the sudden shift to remote work brought on by the pandemic, he said.

By the end of 2019, the agency had every staff member on Office 365, and they all had access to cloud services and centralized IT support, McGuigan said during a webcast on government cybersecurity in the COVID 19 environment. As the agency entered 2020, its cloud adoption strategy was gaining momentum, which put it in a good position when the pandemic struck, he said.

“Timing is everything,” he said.

The move to the cloud has facilitated identity management, cyber hygiene and two-factor authentication -- keys to keeping ahead of cybercriminals and bad actors in the current environment, he said. It has also brought less tangible benefits, including new credibility and accelerated modernization. “We went through three years of behavioral changes, adapting to [collaborative applications] Teams, Webex in three months.”

The agency also found a new way to look at modernization requirements. The “cost of delay” in not getting collaborative applications and other IT applications to users quickly became an important factor when those resources were critical to supporting remote workers, he said. Agile techniques in developing updates also showed there could be “a different expectation of delivery.”

“There’s a new confidence in IT and credibility across the bureaus,” he said. “We plan to build on that.”

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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