Cloud adoption and migration guide for the Public Sector

The ongoing pandemic has compelled Governments across the country to re-align themselves and adopt the emerging technologies to deal with concerns around physical interactions, public accountability, and data infrastructure. This has led to new wave of cloud adoption, which comes with its own apprehensions.

This article will help you understand the benefits and challenges of cloud adoption and how to overcome those roadblocks. Also, it will guide you through a cloud migration roadmap ideal for public sector organizations.

Cloud applications offer good scalability, huge flexibility, cost reduction, decreased operational overhead, and reliability, but they also present a range of operational and organizational challenges.

Security concerns – Migrating from legacy systems to the cloud requires substantial resources and a well-proven plan, to avoid any slippage through the cracks. In addition to that, government organizations might encounter security challenges, especially, compliance with the US CLOUD Act3. While security is a shared responsibility between the organization and the cloud provider, there is apprehension surrounding public cloud providers, which can be addressed with a well-defined policy and a clear understanding of the security model.

Overwhelming options – The next big challenge that organizations face is due to the vast array of cloud providers in the market. To name a few market leaders, there is AWS, Oracle Cloud, Azure, IBM, Alibaba and Google Cloud Platform. There are many public, private, and hybrid cloud providers, each with its own advantages and disadvantages but this well-defined spread often leaves technical teams in a state of confusion.

Insufficient expertise – The teething issues of cloud adoption appears during the actual migration or reorganizing the existing infrastructure to a model that can capitalize on the benefits of moving to the cloud. This can be a big mess due to budget constraints, shortage of technical staff, or inexperience with cloud migration.

The four-step cloud transformation approach can help address the concerns mentioned above and ensure a smooth transition to cloud adoption.

A roadmap for approaching cloud migration

For any cloud migration, there are four important steps that need to be taken into consideration. Completion of each of these steps would not only ensure a smoother journey but also help organizations make the most of their cloud adoption.

  • Assess
  • Plan
  • Migrate
  • Optimize

In addition to these steps, there are six important questions that organizations can ask before contemplating the cloud journey. Thinking through these questions and coming up with thoughtful answers can ensure preparation and buy-in from various stakeholders involved in the process.

1. What is our end goal?

For any large enterprise, cloud migration, involves meticulous planning, risk assessment, investment of resources, and finally a major culture change. Understanding the end state vision helps tackle some of the challenges encountered while performing this change; which involves asking the following questions:

  • Where do you want to reach and why?
  • How will you get there?
  • What and who will you need for this journey?

Even though these questions are often overlooked during the cloud migration process, it acts as the foundation for an enterprise’s cloud adoption framework. Having a grounded understanding of the organization’s weaknesses and strengths will help tackle any roadblocks during the journey.

Stakeholders are extremely important while considering any migration journey, and this holds especially true for the public sector. The Stakeholder landscape in the public sector is complex, both internally and externally, which makes it even more important to ensure the buy-in and responsibility assignment of all the stakeholders. Keeping the stakeholders informed is crucial in carving out a seamless migration plan while keeping in mind the end-state vision.

2. Why should we move to the cloud?

One of the biggest drivers of cloud adoption in the public sector is the promise of reducing on-premise infrastructure costs and overhead. However, a careful assessment and comprehensive analysis of the benefits is not only helpful but also crucial in driving the adoption. These benefits can range from agility, better security, improved scalability, new and innovative features, and reliability.

For the public sector, the savings may not be evident towards the beginning, which may lead to frustration, apprehension, or even negativity from some Stakeholders. That’s why it’s important to have a solid case outlining the benefits of moving to the cloud. Providing transparency and traceability keeping these benefits in mind can help keep the Stakeholders more engaged and informed.

3. What will we move to the cloud?

Public sectors handle a wide portfolio of technologies, which needs to be taken into consideration while planning the cloud migration. Having a thorough understanding of the portfolio, i.e., a catalog of the applications, platforms, data, and any underlying infrastructure is the first step before deciding what needs to be moved to the cloud.

Organizations need to understand the business requirements of each of the technologies in their portfolio, and first assess if cloud adoption can address those requirements and fit into the larger vision. Sometimes, these assessments can also lead to technologies being retired or modified, which would help optimize the cost benefits of moving to the cloud. This also helps organizations balance their cloud aspirations and constraints associated with these systems, paving way for a smoother migration process. For example, legacy systems are more challenging to move to the cloud, and organizations have faced several obstacles jumping into the process without assessing a good plan to address the necessary constraints.

4. What approach will we use to migrate to the cloud?

There are six broad approaches that organizations can use to migrate to the cloud. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of these approaches and their use cases before planning the cloud migration.

For the public sector, a scale-up approach would help ensurminimum disruption and maximum agility during the migration process. Rather than moving large scale systems which have major dependences, organization can move small, easy-to-migrate applications and then scale up as they learn from the actual experience. Applications used for analytics can be a good starting point, where the data can be slowly migrated first, followed by the other parts of the application. This would help increase the confidence of stakeholders, build a solid foundation, help organizations learn throughout the process, and provide better aid for risk mitigation.

5. How should we change our operating model?

Cloud adoption doesn’t only involve technical expertise but requires major change management efforts. This is especially true in the public sector, which requires the IT Infrastructure team and management to attain a new level of maturity and a paradigm shift in the ongoing operating model.

IT teams need to adopt a more agile approach after cloud transformation and stay integrated with the organization’s broader vision and day to day workings. There needs to be an alignment of the organization’s larger strategic objectives, cost-benefit analysis of cloud adoption, as well as a shift in responsibilities. The talent within the larger IT Infrastructure team can be leveraged to move away from the day-to-day operations, to adopt a newer cloud vision, and learn cloud administration. It’s important to train the existing employees to gain new skills and invest in the benefits of moving to the cloud. Talent management and change management takes up a lot of planning and effortand organizations can benefit from getting current and future employees to stay aligned to the larger vision.

6. How can we ensure that our systems are secure?

Security is a major concern for the public sector while moving to the cloud. It’s important to understand that security is a shared responsibility of the cloud providers and the organization, and having a clear division of responsibilities can address these security concerns. The following image explains these responsibilities based on the cloud services chosen by the organization.

Apart from a clear demarcation of responsibilities, the following best practices can ensure a robust and well laid out security model for organizations belonging to the public sector:

  • Identity and access management control
  • Active monitoring
  • Data encryption
  • Vulnerability and penetration testing
  • Establishing and managing firewalls
  • Ongoing security training for employees

Conclusion

Cloud adoption can sound intimidating to organization belonging to the public sector, due to the vast portfolio of technical systems, investment in technical workforce, shared security model, unpredictability as well as a complex stakeholder landscape. However, the cloud migration, adoption, and optimization journey can be simplified with meticulous planning, foresight, and stakeholder engagement. The questions mentioned in this article can help lay the foundations for a smooth cloud journey and adoption.

This blog is contributed by Vijeta Pai of Cloud-demystified.com

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