Cloud adoption gains traction in states
Almost 90% of state CIOs said cloud use is picking up steam, according to the initial results of a survey by NASCIO and Accenture released this week.
Most state chief information officers have accelerated their cloud adoption in all or some areas, according to the preliminary results of a survey released this week.
Eighty-eight percent of CIOs said they have increased their cloud adoption, with the top application areas including health services, human services, employment services and workforce, according to early results of a survey by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and Accenture, released at NASCIO’s Mid-Year Meeting this week in National Harbor, Maryland.
While security remains the top consideration for CIOs considering cloud solutions, 88% also said a lack of training and employee skills gaps prevent them from adopting more services. Every state has completed or is developing a cloud strategy or roadmap, according to the survey, while nearly half of respondents agreed that the cloud offers their state relevant business capabilities.
The full results of the survey, the second iteration of a biennial cloud adoption survey conducted by NASCIO and Accenture, are set to be released in October. Patrick Moore, principal director at Accenture, said during a panel discussion unveiling the findings that while the COVID-19 pandemic spurred that drive to the cloud, governments must stay aware that migrating to the cloud is “not the end.”
“It’s not a technology in and of itself,” Moore said. “It’s a way that government can deliver services better.”
For states moving to the cloud, change management is crucial, something that Arizona CIO J.R. Sloan said. Many IT departments are “not so good at” supporting change for their own staff members, even as they see other agencies and employees change “every single day.”
Reskilling employees for changing job roles is critical, he said. While some who are used to stacking, racking and plugging in legacy technologies embrace the change, Sloan said others may be “laggards” who need to be shown why migration is important. New job descriptions are necessary too, he said.
“You don't want to take your current system administrator and say, ‘You're just a system administrator over here in cloud now,’” Sloan said. “The skills are different. Also, you need to communicate: ‘This is a different job, and by the way, the market values it differently.’”
One other aspect of the report’s findings is that many states are still relying on on-prem technology for some business functions. Sloan noted that the Arizona Lottery Commission is one of several agencies that use on-prem infrastructure, but the state is continuing to consolidate its data centers to the point that now 78% of the state’s workload is in the cloud. The remaining on-prem workloads must be justified regularly, he said, to ensure they are not overspending budget or resources in light of how technology has evolved.
Some observers said states must figure out how to migrate some of their harder-to-move legacy systems to the cloud, especially as most moves to the cloud have so far involved newer or smaller applications. And there may always be a role for on-prem infrastructure in some form, especially for systems that were built before the cloud even existed.
“If you were to start a state today and say, ‘Okay, I need systems for all of these key things,’ you would put them on the cloud,” Clint Dean, vice president of state and local government at IT services company Ensono, said in an interview after the panel. As far as migrating legacy systems goes, “it's not easy, and a lot of them have hooks in 100 other places. Whether it's federal agencies or local agencies, these systems have been built over 40 or 50 years. It takes a lot of time to unwind that spool.”
In addition to the preliminary survey results, Sloan and Moore called on states to consider using a cloud assessment tool, which measures criteria like where data is housed, physical hardware, applications, security maturity and executive buy-in to determine how far along the journey to the cloud agencies are. Cloud assessment tools are available from StateRAMP, the State Risk and Authorization Management Program for cloud security, Accenture and other major cloud services firms.
Measuring executive buy-in may be a complex metric to track, but Sloan said a state’s budget priorities are a key indicator. If state leaders include cloud technology or migration in a budget request, that shows they are serious. “If that’s not executive buy-in, I don’t know what is,” he said.