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In today’s digital age, public sector organizations are increasingly turning to the cloud as a means to enhance efficiency, bolster resilience, and fortify their overall security posture.

However, harnessing the full potential of cloud computing requires a strategic approach that goes beyond a simple lift-and-shift migration.

It demands the integration of cloud workers and the formulation of a comprehensive public sector cloud strategy. In this article, we delve into the critical aspects of this transformation, exploring both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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The Top 4 Challenges in Cloud Computing for Public Sector

Public sector entities face four significant obstacles when it comes to adopting cloud solutions. Identifying and addressing these challenges is essential for a successful transition.

1. Security and Compliance Requirements

In the public sector, adherence to rigorous security and compliance standards is nothing new. Whether it’s HIPAA, PCI DSS, NIST, or FedRAMP, these organizations have long been committed to maintaining secure operations.

Transitioning to the cloud introduces a new layer of complexity, as it involves navigating a fresh set of regulations while upholding stringent security standards.

2. Shortage of Cloud Talent

Historically, the public sector has struggled to compete with the private sector in attracting top tech talent.

This trend persists, despite an influx of tech professionals into the job market due to industry layoffs.

Complex hiring processes, less competitive benefits, and a lack of flexibility have made it challenging for government agencies to recruit and retain cloud engineers. Legacy technology systems further compound this issue, as many cloud professionals prefer cutting-edge environments and are less inclined to work with outdated systems prevalent in public sector organizations.

3. Acquiring Cloud Services that Align with Public Sector Contracts

Cloud computing services operate on a pay-as-you-go model, enabling agencies to scale their resources to meet current demands. While indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts offer a pathway for public sector organizations to invest in metered services, setting up these contracts can be time-consuming and costly. Additionally, agencies may face scrutiny when selecting cloud service providers for these contracts.

4. Legacy Infrastructure Spending

Despite the growing emphasis on cloud adoption, public sector organizations, including the federal government, continue to prioritize legacy on-premises systems. In fact, as of the beginning of 2022, only 35% of public sector CIOs expressed intentions to reduce spending on legacy infrastructure and data center technologies, compared to 54% planning to increase cloud spending. As long as legacy systems remain a priority, the full benefits of cloud transformation will remain elusive.

7  Opportunities for Public Sector Agencies in Cloud Computing

Despite the challenges, cloud computing offers a multitude of opportunities for public sector organizations to enhance their operations. Success lies not only in embracing the technology but also in leveraging the capabilities of your team and refining your processes.

1. Embrace a Shared Responsibility Model

Cloud service providers operate under a shared responsibility model, which delineates their infrastructure responsibilities from those of individual organizations.

This model enables effective resource allocation. By offloading tasks like managing cloud software and hardware, organizations can allocate more resources to critical areas like cybersecurity. However, a thorough understanding of the shared responsibility model is crucial to ensure that responsibilities are clearly defined.

2. Enhance Regulatory Compliance

While compliance may appear as a challenge, it presents a significant opportunity for agencies. Compliance frameworks serve as a guide to ensure that environments align with the latest regulations.

When considering cloud providers, examine their compliance documentation to confirm authorization under specific frameworks, such as FedRAMP, StateRAMP, and Cloud One and Platform One. This ensures that their services adhere to essential requirements.

3. Implement Continuous Authority to Operate (cATO)

The traditional authorization process for new systems can be time-consuming, leading to potential obsolescence by the time authorization is granted. Continuous Authority to Operate (cATO) offers a more agile approach by continuously authorizing cloud infrastructure, systems, and platforms.

This allows agencies to focus on capability and code delivery, rather than the constant cycle of building and authorizing new platforms.

4. Facilitate Remote Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote and hybrid work models in government agencies.

Over 90% of employees across industries now prefer such arrangements, offering benefits like expanded talent pools and potential cost savings through salary adjustments.

5. Bridge the Cloud Skills Gap Through Upskilling

To address the shortage of cloud talent, public sector organizations can invest in upskilling their existing workforce.

Initiatives like webinars, live streams, blogs, and ebooks provide accessible learning resources. As employees progress, they can explore more advanced options such as on-demand courses, instructor-led training, and customized labs and sandboxes.

6. Drive Mission-Critical Outcomes and Impact

Despite budget constraints, public sector organizations can lead in mission impact.

Cloud engineers play a crucial role in initiatives like the U.S. Army’s Enterprise Cloud Management Office (ECMO), the U.S. Navy’s Black Pearl platform, and the U.S. Air Force’s Platform One initiative, contributing to national defense and broader mission success.

7. Expedite Cloud Solutions with Accepted Acquisition Guides

Navigating the regulations associated with acquiring new cloud technologies can be challenging.

Fortunately, some organizations have developed guides and frameworks to streamline the process. Leveraging these resources can simplify and expedite your agency’s cloud journey.

Going Beyond Public Sector Cloud Adoption

For most public sector organizations, the question is not whether to adopt cloud services but how to do so successfully.

By adhering to established acquisition frameworks, formulating a tailored cloud strategy, and investing in the development of your team’s cloud expertise, you can overcome common cloud challenges and achieve enduring success.

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