Federal Government Agency Moves to the Cloud

US-GeneralServicesAdministration-LogoThe General Services Administration is in the middle of a multiyear initiative to move core federal government agency systems to the cloud—a network of Internet-hosted remote services—to manage and process data, rather than relying on local servers. The “Drive to the Cloud” initiative, overseen by CIO Sonny Hashmi, allows employees to work from anyplace on any device.

According to Casey Coleman, GSA’s former chief information officer, Hashmi “has played a significant role in establishing a strategic vision for GSA’s IT transformation. GSA employees moved to Google Apps in 2011, the first time a government agency transferred basic email services to the cloud. Since that time, GSA has added a cloud-based platform of tools to enable employees to share files, work on projects and exchange ideas. GSA estimates that the switch to cloud-based email services will save the agency $15 million by 2016.

Zintro expert Deborah Wolfe is a business consultant who has worked for the state government for 8 years as an Operations & Management Consultant, Budget Manager, and Organizational Change Manager. She explains, “While the GSA may not be utilizing an original strategy, any time you can reduce costs without a loss in quality or service, it’s a good thing. But they are going to get more of a deal than expected! In the past, technological advances in government sectors have often meant a big loss of quality to the public. When decision making is left to a computer and human oversight in limited, systemic problems occur. Cloud technology is proving to bring people together, collaborating their efforts and ideas. As a business analyst, I always stress finding an easy solution, one that you will actually use, and the cloud is exactly that.”

Zintro expert Gerald Lovel is CEO of an engineering and computer services company that provides Open-Source systems and solutions for business offices, including remote monitoring and management services. “I applaud the forward thinking in GSA’s market-following move to cloud services,” says Lovei. “After converting documents and forms to cloud services, GSA should abandon PCs in favor of network-connected Chromebooks, browser terminals which store all data and user configuration in the cloud. Special login measures could then guarantee the security of government data, avoiding the embarrassment of lost laptops with hard drive databases of social security numbers, for example.

“GSA touts the move to cloud services as a way to save money,” continues Lovei, “but improved security, reduced employee training, and convenience of access and use are even bigger benefits of the cloud. My company moved to Google Docs about four years ago also, after an episode of lost emails somewhat like recent IRS and EPA snafus. Then we converted all project documentation to use git version control. Now Google Docs includes repository-like history features too, along with collaborative editing. GSA will probably benefit most from these features, rather than the nominal cost savings they quote as justification for cloud services.”

Zintro has experts in every industry sector, across every job function, in every geographic region. Recently, some of the following topics have seen inquiry activity: