For employees at startups in Silicon Valley and around the world, there’s no question of whether or not to use cloud services. These organizations build software on public cloud platforms like AWS, use the latest cloud productivity applications, and even rely on cloud-based security solutions like Okta. The consumerized IT model reflects the central tenet of startup culture: “get shit done”.

Agility is a competitive advantage for these upstart companies and part of the reason companies like Zenefits and Airbnb are able to take away huge slices of market share before incumbent players can respond. Companies from all industries are trying to implement workplace best practices from smaller, more dynamic high-tech startups.

The stereotype of government agencies does not conjure words like “agile” and “innovative.” However, the tide is turning in the public sector workplace, as agencies shake up the status quo in an effort to deliver the public better returns on their tax dollars. A new organization formed under the authority of US CIO Tony Scott, the United States Digital Service, is aimed at bringing Silicon Valley talent and culture to the US government.

Innovation typically starts on the technology side, and in government organizations that means the office of the CIO. However, government IT leaders often struggle to meet a dual mandate of maintaining legacy systems and simultaneously developing innovative new systems, often with meager budgets. This week we’ll look at the barriers to innovation within public sector.

Patty Hatter of McAfee shared an article summarizing a MeriTalk survey that investigated preparedness of government agencies to meet new requirements under the Federal Information Technology Acquisisiton Reform Act. FITARA brings business alignment to government IT by turning agency CIOs into budgeting authorities. The study found that despite these best intentions, CIOs are “neck deep in compliance requirements.” Unfortunately, when restrictive security and IT policies lag behind available technology, IT loses control and is left in the dark. This is a major reason that government IT departments are typically aware of only 10% of employee cloud usage.

It’s no secret that government agencies are under pressure to stretch budgets as much as possible. An article shared by San Francisco Police Department Technology Director Gary Price states that information security in the public sector is “woefully underfunded,” typically representing less than 5% of the total IT budget. Issues including budget constraint and a shortage of knowledge on the latest technologies lead to a lack of visibility and control, especially as dated security technologies supply alert overload in the form of false positives. On this front, IT leaders can look to security technologies that with low operating costs, ease of deployment, and high return on investment.

Pioneering agencies are following the example of progressive private sector counterparts and embracing cloud-based IT solutions. To highlight a success story, US Air Force CIO Bill Marion moved his users to Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud offering which has taken the market by storm. The move to cloud systems can help IT overcome common challenges, in this case allowing Air Force employees to “focus on the core cyber mission instead of managing manpower-intensive IT commodities like e-mail.” This speaks to the driving factors behind cloud adoption: reduced, flexible cost, increased productivity, and increased collaboration. Contrary to public perception, cloud services can offer security equal or superior to on-premises networks, meaning the new architecture will still be a “secure and reliable environment.”

In the face of advanced threats, the best defense may be ensuring the implementation of security fundamentals, suggests an article shared by Digineer CIO Bryce Austin. The writer calls out the importance of monitoring privileged access and updating infrastructure. Cloud-based storage can help IT enforce best practices with painless SaaS updates and the latest encryption and authentication features.

Lastly, IT isn’t the only entity adapting to the new cloud-based world. San Mateo County CIO Jon Walton shared an article on the legal battle between Microsoft and the US government regarding the right to seize data stored in the cloud overseas. This case has implications for global organizations, as the ruling will affect how European regulations on data privacy apply to corporate data in the cloud.

 

Cloud Adoption & Risk in Government Report

Based on anonymized usage data for 200,000 public sector employees, Skyhigh presents hard data on government cloud usage.

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