Cloud Transformation Amid the Pandemic: Government Agencies Take Flight

For many state government agencies, their preparation for the cloud — and their first moves toward it — began several years ago. And while those agencies had a head start when the pandemic forced them to change how they work, it greatly accelerated migration plans. At the recent FCW Cloud Summit, we heard from many of these leaders about the challenges they faced, what they focused on and, most importantly, what they’ve learned. If you missed the Summit, here are some highlights.

What Seemed Impossible Proves Very Possible

During emergencies, the Small Business Administration (SBA) expands its support for citizens, sometimes adding thousands of temporary agents. And, while it was already on its journey to the cloud, the demands of the pandemic accelerated everything, said Guy Cavallo, Deputy CIO for the SBA.

“On March 1, we had zero virtual desktops in the cloud, and now we have 2,000. We can on-board new employees in the cloud, and yet they’re still under our control,” he noted. Cavallo attributes a lot of its success to training. “You can’t just throw technology at employees. We conducted 100 training sessions, so when everyone began working at home, they were already comfortable with the new way of working.”

Chris Chilbert, CIO for the Office of the Inspector General, found that getting employees to understand security was a challenge. “We have a highly distributed workforce across the US and, even though we had begun the move to mobile, not everyone understood basic concepts of security. We made it simple and added more service desk employees. We also enabled employees and contractors to use hotspots with laptops and cell phones to ensure consistent access to data. Now, we have new ways in place to give access securely through the cloud.”

While the agencies that Okta supports are further along their journeys to the cloud, Habib Hourani, Senior Federal Solutions Engineer for Okta, cautions not to overlook details.

“With the shift to telework, employees are not on a traditional network, and that poses issues, for example, with VPN capacity,” said Hourani. “Think about how you’re going to bridge the gap. Without traditional perimeters, agencies must ensure there’s fluid access. That includes how you onboard new employees and giving them access when you can’t get them a PIV card fast.” By accounting for these challenges, agencies can do a better job and eliminate surprises.

Cloud Transforms Almost Everything

COVID-19 reinforced what agencies needed to do to be more efficient. Previously, if an SBA employee’s Personal Identify Verification (PIV) card was lost, it could be a six-hour drive to get it reinstated. “On top of that, it would take two weeks to get a PIV card and, with thousands of employees, it didn’t make sense,” said Cavallo. “There were also security issues, which have completely changed with two-factor factor authentication.”

Leadership also had to make changes as they let go of the old version of a war room, added Cavallo. “It was costly and time-consuming anyway. Using Skype, now we can have full participation with online war rooms versus bringing many people together into one office,” he said. The SBA also moved to digital signatures and eliminated printers at home.

In multicloud environments, the priority is managing identities and extending user access to other channels, such as CMS. “But getting data across channels is harder than getting people across,” said Hourani. “With so many cloud tools now available, agencies should look for those that work for them, with neutrality to support multiple clouds.”

There are More Important Considerations Than Cost

The pandemic accelerated agencies’ moves to the cloud to support remote workers. FedRAMP-authorized vendors have been important in helping agencies understand they need to think beyond people and processes. Working with IT requires more than just asking for a requirements lists. A successful cloud transformation is a collaborative effort with IT as an equal contributor — and everyone driving toward a specific goal.

Looking at cost first is a common trap; it’s how businesses and government agencies approached projects in the past. But cloud migration is a different story.

“Instead of cost, ask how you can make something better, now that the technology is available,” said Tony Pearson, Solutions Consultant Leader at Genesys. “Start with your mission and define the outcomes you want.”

This opportunity to transform your agency isn’t just delivering a tech stack. “There’s training, workflow, understanding who is consuming what information and why,” added Pearson “And finally: What will be easy to migrate and what will take time?”

Every Step Toward the Cloud Matters

Migrating your agency contact center to the cloud can be a powerful enabler of efficiencies, scalability and security. Genesys offers a FedRAMP-authorized cloud contact center solution for you to simplify deployment and support for all your cloud programs in all forms – whatever your next step is.

Hear more from the experts. Watch the FCW Cloud Summit on-demand.