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10 Tips for Federal Cloud Migration

According to CIO.gov,

Federal Government has a responsibility to achieve the significant cost, agility and innovation benefits of cloud computing as quickly as possible.

With mandates like this and Cloud Smart, agencies are chomping at the bit to move IT assets to the cloud. While aligning with these newer federal policies is important, it is paramount for agencies to do so intelligently. GSA suggests following these collected best practices below to facilitate your agency’s cloud migration.

1) Ruthless Application Rationalization is a must! In order to efficiently and effectively move applications to the cloud, your agency must know what applications are deployed in your own IT environment and how those applications are leveraged and connected to identify which applications are candidates for migration to the cloud. The concept of simply “lifting and shifting” your applications ad environment to the cloud will not allow your agency to obtain the efficiencies of the cloud and to leverage the full capabilities and benefits of the cloud in respect to increased performance and security.

2) Tie your cloud migration to a business initiative and your agency’s mission. Though this may be common sense, you truly do need to understand why moving to the cloud makes sense for your agency! Ensure that your software architects support and partner with your acquisition team to understand cloud technology, pricing models, and how to accurately calculate visible and hidden costs. The resulting Cost Benefit Analyses (CBA) should identify your available options and provide a foundational roadmap to your migration to the cloud and IT modernization. 

3) Senior leadership buy-in and understanding is crucial when discussing fundamental shifts to an organization’s IT structure. Know that leadership wants change in this technological arena and is amenable to well thought out suggestions. Approach them with this mindset, but be prepared to cite the relevant government policies, initiatives and procedures in place that will strengthen your case from an administrative perspective. These are what often drive the critical path to IT Modernization. 

4) Human capital planning and change management are essential for a sustainable, positive and productive migration to the cloud. Restructure and refocus IT personnel resources around Mission Critical IT services while leveraging commercial clouds solutions like Email as a Service (EaaS). Institute rigorous training plans to develop and mature your personnel resources technology skills to support your Mission Critical IT services. It’s part of the Presidential Management Agenda to get government personnel from doing low value work to high value work!

5) During cloud migration, work alongside the professional integrators to learn from them and train personnel simultaneously. Integrate your current IT resources into your cloud migration plans, and incorporate them into the process of the migration to facilitate their skills development. Ensure to include training for your IT resources from your professional cloud integrator to ensure a smooth transition from the integrator to your IT resources and to ensure your IT resources are prepared and confident.

6) Should one redevelop an existing application in the cloud or acquire a new application? Before choosing the former, conduct a thorough Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) for the applications first. Sometimes, acquiring a commercial application is less expensive, as it avoids redevelopment costs. You may discover that the commercial application has an even greater capability than your legacy application! In addition, commercial vendors provide for the continued patching, updng and upgrading of commercial applications. 

7) If your organization is just starting its cloud journey, focus on a quick win first to garner ‘mindshare’ in your agency. By doing too much too fast, you’ll not only fail to adequately demonstrate the value of cloud, but also lose your user base in the process. Email as a Service (Eaas) or other office productivity tools are usually the most popular initial move to cloud. It touches everyone in an organization and the migration processes around it are mature, low-risk and well understood.

8) Governance is one of the most critical pieces of moving to the cloud. You have to know what the scope of your migration is and who is responsible for what pieces. When these guardrails aren’t in place, cloud sprawl happens! Prevent shifting unneeded assets to the cloud and hone in on what truly belongs there.

9) Many agencies worry about letting their data off of their own premises. Understand that by moving to the cloud, your security and disaster recovery capabilities are usually much better off. Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) offer multiple back-ups in different geographical locations and will configure security controls to your agency’s requirements.

10) Strike the right balance between locking in long-term with vendors and contracting for longer periods to reduce costs. Vendors are constantly changing, updating and adding service offerings, and agencies need designated personnel to keep up with that. Try not to get stuck with a vendor that may sunset support for a service your organization is taking advantage of. On the flip side of the coin, it’s possible to reduce your cloud bills significantly by leveraging reserved/spot instance models. These are longer term commitments to purchasing reservations of capacity. Try to find the sweet spot; ask the vendor the right probing questions up front about how you anticipate your cloud needs changing (if at all) vis a vis the CSP’s products in the coming years. 

For answers to your cloud questions, contact the GSA Cloud Proud Team at 202-969-7113 or at Cloudinfo@gsa.gov.


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For information about getting on GSA Schedules or general direct cloud support (for agencies or vendors), contact the GSA Cloud Acquisition Team at Cloudinfo@gsa.gov.
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