According to 12 key government CIOs interviewed by Intermedium as part of its Get to Know the CIO Series, their main challenges into (and beyond) 2014 are how to reconcile increased demand for ICT services with reduced resources, and how to best to manage disparate systems in highly siloed environments.
Cloud computing was seen as a solution to both dilemmas. However, a number of the CIOs interviewed also pointed to the need for cultural change and agency-wide cooperation to resolve the problems created by disparate, siloed business systems.
Commonly articulated cloud benefits including value for money, management of risk, flexibility and increased innovation were well understood by the CIOs interviewed. They saw that the resultant productivity increase could be channelled into achieving a deeper focus on agency business goals.
At least one CIO did not view cloud based solutions as a new offering. Cloud Computing “is just another business model, and one that is not actually that new… We’ve had cloud solutions for many years. We haven’t owned a mainframe since 1994. Instead we’ve had a service platform for mainframe and we’re on our third mainframe in that space”, said Andrew Mills, in his 16 October 2012 interview with Intermedium. Mills was at that time the South Australia Whole of Government CIO. As of 6 January 2014, Mills became the Queensland Whole of Government CIO.
The future for cloud solutions
All 12 CIOs surveyed by Intermedium are already at least considering the opportunities that ‘infrastructure-as-a-service’ offers for their business.
Distilled to their essence, the evaluation criteria for any proposed cloud solution identified by the CIOs were value for money, onshore solution availability and information security.
More than half of the CIOs interviewed are already using cloud based solutions and were evaluating further extensions into their IT architecture.
The minority of CIOs not yet utilising any form of cloud solution indicated that it was nonetheless an option being evaluated.
“I don’t think we would ever close the door on shared offerings. I think the market is changing. These services, whether infrastructure or a package, will change the whole landscape around IT”, said Department of Defence CIO Peter Lawrence on 30 January 2013.
CIOs volunteered examples of cloud based delivery with applications such as CRM, single messaging solutions and payroll; the provision of platforms for web hosting; and the management of hardware in data centre environments cited.
It was observed that cloud solutions were of particular relevance where demand for service was highly irregular and difficult to predict, such as with emergency services.
A number of the CIOS favoured a phased approach, with agency owned infrastructure being virtualsed as a first step before full cloud implementation.
Although all interviewed CIOs tended to agree that cloud was an important part of their ICT future plans, it was certainly not seen as a silver bullet. The interviewed CIOs see cloud solutions as being highly relevant to some domains and less so to others.
As Graham Coles, then CIO at the Victorian Department of Human Services, and now Executive Director, Digital Government in the Office of the Chief Technology Advocate at the Victorian Department of State Development, Business and Innovation, stated in his 9 September 2013 interview, “there are restrictions as to what data we can put in the cloud so it is not the solution for all things.”
The CIOs surveyed identified legislative, data sovereignty and security considerations, as well as areas of market immaturity as impediments to cloud uptake, with the likelihood that any offshore solution proposed would currently be rejected on security and data sovereignty grounds.
There was a perceived commercial and operational immaturity in the current on shore offerings. CIOs perceived that there was a lack of Australian-based offerings charged solely on service consumption.
A further limitation is the perception that “the more challenging side of cloud, however, is retrofitting legacy systems into a cloud environment which require solid cost, benefit and risk analysis prior to committing to this path,” as stated by Glenn Walker in March 2013. At the time of interview Walker was the CIO at the Queensland Department of Community Safety. He subsequently (and briefly) became the Executive Director of ICT Renewal, at the Queensland Department of Science, IT, Innovation and the Arts (DSITIA). ITNews has reported that his last day in this role will be 14 February 2014.
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