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Government Cloud – CIO Best Practices

Service Delivery Transformation

The State of Michigan’s ‘MiCloud’ strategy is a comprehensive framework for adoption of Cloud Computing by a government agency, one that can act as a best practice blueprint for others to emulate.

Most notably they opt not to use the centralized Apps.gov store. Instead they define their own role as a full-service solution provider for their clients, and handle all the supplier negotiations and in a manner that enables cross-provider switching and avoids vendor lock-in.

Through their Delivery Method Decision Tree they integrate various tiers of Cloud service into an overall IT service delivery program. This means they don’t opt for only one flavour of Cloud computing, but instead use the ‘right tool for the right job’.

Where there is appropriate opportunity to utilize low-cost commodity public Cloud service they do so, and where their security and compliance requirements dictate they opt instead for their own in-house Government Community Cloud.

Service Delivery Transformation
Ultimately this is enabling them to transform the role of IT and how they deliver services.

This is headline by a punchy theme: “The Cloud Computing paradigm says “The client can have something simple, proven and cheap immediately, or they can have something complex, unproven and expensive in six months.”

Michigan sets themselves a top-level priority of securing tangible benefits for citizens and businesses, achieved through a number of specific business transformation benefits:

  • Imperative to maximize efficiency - Government is under fierce pressure to reduce staff, capital and operating budgets. In categories like storage Michigan have delivered options at 90% cheaper rates.
  • They have eliminated “rogue sourcing”, where consumers go around the IT department to order Cloud applications like Google directly, by offering their own in-house alternatives for lower costs, and through rapid, self-service tools.
  • User empowerment - Through self-service catalogues and Process Automation tools they are empowering users to embrace and benefit from IT without their direct involvement. A process orchestrator function that enables business users, regardless of ICT skill level, to create process definitions which are published to the service catalogue. This serves as a foundation for process transformation.
  • Cloud sourcing - Migrating commodity ICT functions, like messaging, to outsourcing providers, to free up staff to work on higher level activities that add real value. Not only does this reduce cost but it meets their need to provide staff with more innovative and challenging work.

They offer a catalogue of services that includes virtual servers, storage, and hosting for web, apps and development, and have also defined a framework for integrating SaaS applications, building an SOA Enterprise Services bus to integrate the applications, and where they overcome the client dependency problem through encapsulation:

“Negotiating virtual machine-friendly licencing rates is critical to deliver encapsulated software platform functions successfully. Delivering encapsulated software platform functions is, in turn, critical to eliminating client dependencies and reducing business complexity.”

Conclusion – Transformation through Cloud sourcing
At the heart of the MiCloud strategy is the recognition that “the Cloud Computing paradigm is a startling shift in the thought process behind ICT sourcing methods”.

Where “government once saw itself as a unique business domain demanding unique ICT functions and custom solution, but now these business processes are converging with those of industry. Workflows such as staff recruiting and the ICT functions that support them, are now becoming standardized commodities.”

They’ve recognized that adding custom software and proprietary COTS applications greatly increases the complexities they have to manage, and so commodity ICT via the Cloud acts to reduce this, adapting common IT services to the needs of government.

Typically major up-front investment is often needed to achieve the economies of scale to make government IT projects cost effective, and Cloud can mitigate this risk.

Through a framework of Cloud sourcing methods like RFP and policy templates, what they call ‘MiDeal’, they are also acting as a Cloud Service Provider: Enabling other units of government to purchase using their contracts and maximize the cost savings that all parties enjoy.

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