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The Cloud is Shaking Up Federal Procurement

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The Cloud is Shaking Up Federal Procurement

March 04, 2016
By Tara Seals
Contributing Writer

When it comes to federal IT transformation, the cloud can play a critical role in projects by eliminating the lead time required for procuring and configuring hardware.

Government agencies, which are often beleaguered by unwieldy red tape in the best of times, often face frustration when it comes to modernizing applications and making incremental updates. The hardware-based procurement process favors forklift replacements rather than organic, agile transformation. Typically, a system is conceived, built and rolled out, in that order.

“Transformation programs are set up to fail,” Mark Schwartz, CIP of Citizenship and Immigration Services, said during a recent panel sponsored by AFCEA Bethesda. “You can’t replace [the old system] until you’ve built the equivalent… in the agile world, that’s a terrible problem, because it means you can’t get something into the hands of the users for a long time.”

Given this, “I think it’s crazy not to be using the public cloud,” he said. “Why do we need to deal with hardware, really? Just let Amazon Web Services or Microsoft (News - Alert)… deal with the hardware for us.”

That shift allows agencies to focus on business outcomes and productivity, rather than on hitting specific milestones.

“In an agile world, what success looks like is very different,” he said. “Anything that fixes a set of requirements is a problem. Fixing the outcome that you want, that’s a very different story. That’s the direction I would go.”

He added that in a cloud-enabled world, the relationships that government agencies have with contractors become more streamlined, and it minimizes risk and cost because agencies can go back to the market frequently for smaller chunks of investment.

“What we’ve tried to do is create an environment where contractors are incentivized to show us how good they are,” Schwartz said. It allows agencies to “rethink the whole thing,” he added.

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