With cloud computing, hands-on skill sets are no longer needed; they become the responsibility of cloud service providers. The servers, racks, and air-conditioned space, which may have been in government properties, will be empty and the space repurposed.
Now agency employees need training to monitor and manage the cloud, using scripts rather than screwdrivers. In the past, there may have been a division between those who coded and those who ran server operations. Those roles are becoming more and more integrated.
Planning for Migration with a Cloud Adoption Framework
A government agency may better prepare for cloud migration by spending more time planning. LMI has developed a Cloud Adoption Framework with four steps: Decide, Prepare, Implement, and Improve. The phase that most often is overlooked is Prepare, and it’s not difficult to see the difficulties that arise when this happens.
Figure 1. The four-step process of cloud implementation.
Signs an Agency Has Skipped Planning
Here are signs an agency needs to spend more time preparing before engaging in cloud projects:
- An agency only hires vendors who migrate data. Many cloud vendors have refined the process of migrating data and applications efficiently. However, if they don’t bring any expertise in enterprise architecture, they may just be moving data and applications in a piecemeal fashion, which creates system lag times as connections become more tenuous (some hosted onsite, while others are hosted in the cloud).
- No clear path for cloud migration. In 2010, a Cloud First policy was announced for the federal government. Many agencies tackled easier migration projects, such as switching to Google Mail. After that, they were stuck. They didn’t have a clear idea of what to migrate next and had no model for evaluating what to move or how to gauge the impact of moving different IT assets.
- Employee resistance. If employees fear their jobs will change or be eliminated, it is possible they will not provide the most accurate information about the necessity or benefits of the cloud. However, if it is clear employees will be supported as they shift to a new model, it is far more likely they will become allies in efforts to eliminate inefficiencies.
Cloud Migration Improves IT Roles
Managing how employee skill sets will change often is not part of cloud migration planning at the enterprise level. But if employees are engaged in a change management process and it is clearly communicated how cloud will make their work more satisfying, the agency accrues major benefits.
- Increased agility: In the past, a sudden need for increased processing power kicked off a complicated procurement process, which involved getting buy-in for budgets, as well as provisioning and cloning servers. With cloud computing, the employee runs a script to create one or a thousand new servers. If the need for increased power lasts for a short time, the employee just reduces requests for cloud services. No more physical servers take up space.
- Less time spent on overextended systems: Most government agencies have systems running on old technology (they may even have code from the time of mainframes). Old code is wrapped in newer code, like a ball of yarn, and new systems are interacting with it. A team might want to migrate one piece to the cloud, but first must disentangle all the pieces. A project manager might estimate a cloud migration costs $25 million only to find that it is so interconnected with other systems that the true cost of the project is more like $100 million. It is critical agencies pull in employee expertise to gain a comprehensive view of systems to ensure cost effective cloud migrations. Employees often know what not to migrate, what should be shut down, and what needs to be built afresh. Most importantly, with cloud services they may focus on building new and strong applications, instead of maintaining outdated ones.
- More in-demand skills: Learning how to manage the cloud has huge benefit for employees, since cloud-related skills are in high demand. But if agencies skip the workforce analysis piece and do not cultivate their workforce to take over cloud management, sooner or later they will find they cannot afford to hire new people with necessary IT skills.