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Lessons Learned: VA Cloud Email Termination

Cloud computing is not about technology

According to a Federal Computer Week article by Frank Konkel, The Department of Veterans Affairs terminated its five-year, $36 million cloud computing contract for email and calendaring services with HP Enterprise Services. Citing a material change in the agency's requirements, VA officials declined to elaborate on the requirement changes that were actually made. Although I have no personal connection or first hand knowledge of the specifics of this deployment, this failure was apparently caused by failure to first build and understand the business case for supporting the cloud transition.

"In November -- after the agency announced its cloud deal with HP Enterprise Services – VA's Deputy CIO for Architecture, Strategy and Design, Paul Tibbits, told an audience at 1105 Media's Enterprise Architecture Conference that he questioned the cost-effectiveness of moving to the cloud.

Tibbits was not discussing this project in particular, but rather stressing the broader need for real use cases and hard-nosed business assessments. "It is not 100 percent clear that expenses go down if we jump into the cloud," he said. "The revenue stream is up there in neon lights, we have got to figure out if that is going to save us money or not."

Cloud computing is not about technology. It is primarily a change in the delivery and consumption of information technology services which can radically change an organizations business model. As highlighted in many expert guides, including my book "GovCloud: Cloud Computing for the Business of Government", the first step in any cloud transition strategy should be the identification, development and commitment to the cloud computing business model.

I also believe that there were at least two other contributing factors to this unfortunate action:

  • Failure to first establish and specify infrastructure security requirements for the software-as-a-service offering. Although FedRAMP is not mandatory until 2014, it provides an efficient and repeatable methodology for establishing a common cloud computing security baseline for all federal agencies
  • Failure to adequately address cultural and change management challenges associated with the cloud computing business model.  If the new business model wasn't firmly understood and communicated throughout the organization with a focused change management process, success would be very difficult to achieve.

 

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Kevin Jackson, founder of the GovCloud Network, is an independent technology and business consultant specializing in mission critical solutions. He has served in various senior management positions including VP & GM Cloud Services NJVC, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and VP Program Management Office at JP Morgan Chase. His formal education includes MSEE (Computer Engineering), MA National Security & Strategic Studies and a BS Aerospace Engineering. Jackson graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1979 and retired from the US Navy earning specialties in Space Systems Engineering, Airborne Logistics and Airborne Command and Control. He also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide. Kevin is the founder and author of “Cloud Musings”, a widely followed blog that focuses on the use of cloud computing by the Federal government. He is also the editor and founder of “Government Cloud Computing” electronic magazine, published at Ulitzer.com. To set up an appointment CLICK HERE

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