State Dept.’s move to hybrid cloud underpinning new IT modernization strategy

IT Modernization Strategy

We have gone through a comprehensive review, analysis and fact finding across the department in 2017 and 2018 to identify what we need to do in order to do IT differently across the department.

Acquisition Strategy

How do we strengthen our service offering of infrastructure and platform to those business owners so they don’t have a huge, heavy lift of basic stuff that should be commoditized, gain the cost savings, leverage those cost savings in building into those systems and services for the mission greater richness and greater capabilities?

New IT Strategic Plan

There still is a significant need for the business side of the organization that really understands what their business requirements are and how to best leverage those business requirements with modern technologies.

Data Security

Over the past eight years, we’ve gone from tip-toeing into the cloud space to actually confronting cloud sprawl. How do we get that value proposition back in by having an elastic cloud environment that can scale rather than setting up duplicative infrastructure environments?

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The State Department’s approach to modernizing its technology is focused on two major shifts: The first is centralization of back-office or commodity IT. The second is all about consuming IT-as-a-service.

Ken Rogers, the State Department’s deputy chief information officer for business management and planning, said the agency’s strategy is all about getting off of the buy, build and maintain train.

“We have gone through a comprehensive review, analysis and fact finding across the department in 2017 and 2018 to identify what we need to do in order to do IT differently across the department,” Rogers said on Ask the CIO. “A lot of that is pulling back in a lot of the decentralized activity and centralized that into a shared service process. It’s a fundamental paradigm shift to how we have been doing IT over the past decade or so.”

Rogers said State is trying to balance the need of the mission areas to be close to the applications they need, and the effectiveness and efficiency benefits of centralization of the back-office IT.

Ken Rogers, State Department deputy chief information officer

“How do we strengthen our service offering of infrastructure and platform to those business owners so they don’t have a huge, heavy lift of basic stuff that should be commoditized, gain the cost savings, leverage those cost savings in building into those systems and services for the mission greater richness and greater capabilities?” he said. “That’s the primary way we are approaching this at this point. There still is a significant need for the business side of the organization that really understands what their business requirements are and how to best leverage those business requirements with modern technologies.”

Getting the value proposition of cloud

At the center of this new approach is a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud that provides State the necessary “guard rails” for IT modernization.

“We are pivoting from cloud-first thinking to an optimized cloud approach. How do we now increase the value proposition of cloud by optimizing what we are doing?” Rogers said. “It really is delivering a secure infrastructure and platform to the department, and pushing up our customers to that software-as-a-service layer where they have a lighter lift. There is huge potential for cost savings, to create efficiencies and to remove some of the friction.”

One example of this optimization approach is that State is making bigger use of enterprise license agreements for cloud services.

Rogers said this will drive down the time to modernize applications because the business units will not have to do their own procurements, and then have access to test, development and production environments.

“Over the past eight years, we’ve gone from tip-toeing into the cloud space to actually confronting cloud sprawl. How do we get that value proposition back in by having an elastic cloud environment that can scale rather than setting up duplicative infrastructure environments?” Rogers said. “This is a real opportunity to do real modernization and I think one of the biggest value propositions out there when you move away from the cost piece is the data. What are you doing with the data?”

Next steps in 2019

Based on the two-year analysis, State CIO Karen Mummaw published the agency’s new strategy in June. It lays out the implementation plan to get that value proposition from cloud services.

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“We vetted this across the department and we got input. We talked about the value proposition,” Rogers said. “But you can’t consolidate until you have a place for them to go so the first step in that process this year was to work on an acquisition strategy that lined up with a multi-vendor approach toward a cloud ecosystem at State. We looked at what we have, how do we leverage it and how do we secure this multi-cloud environment with some of the production stuff that is out there so we have a go-to strategy for our bureau customers.”

Rogers said in 2019, State will take the next step to consolidate all the one-off contracts for cloud services into the enterprise service agreements, and then start optimizing those environments to obtain the cost savings the agency expects.

“One of the things we are doing in partnership with our acquisition shop is we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on IT acquisitions in the department and how can we optimize it. You can’t do IT differently or optimize IT at a federal agency today without optimizing how you do IT acquisition,” he said. “As part of our IT strategic plan, it is a part of a number of goals we have laid out over the next four years to focus on building on an IT acquisition cadre at the department, understanding how to optimize our acquisition vehicles so they can be leveraged across the department and, of course, look at the government vehicles that we can leverage to create those same kind of efficiencies.”