AWS – Platform for Digital Government Innovation and Transformation

The tier one Cloud providers like AWS have tailored their services for the public sector, enabling governments to also adopt these same innovation capabilities and accelerated rates of deployment.

They offer a range of FedRAMP compliant services, offering a path to high compliance and services tailored to departmental needs such as the DOD.

Blueprint for a Digital Nation

In this interview with Silicon Angle Teresa Carlson, Worldwide VP for AWS Public Sector, discusses the impact of AWS on the public sector, headlined by the ideal their regional expansions are about far more than just bringing yet another new technology supplier to that market.

Instead they seek to bring a ‘Blueprint for a Digital Nation’, a holistic framework for broad societal transformation that encompasses enablement of social entrepreneurship, increased diversity, job skills training at colleges and templates for new government acquisition methods.

Transforming Procurement and Culture

Speaking at the AWS 2015 summit Mark Schwartz (Twitter) explores how Government organizations can adopt this new culture of rapid innovation, challenging the core idea that you can’t innovate in large enterprise Federal Government.

He defines the core measurement relevant to this goal: Speed – The lead time from realizing there is a mission need to deploying the required capability. Cloud speeds that deployment and reduces that time cycle.

More importantly Mark has been considering the broader organizational challenges and how they can be overcome to unleash the unused potential for expanded innovation in the public sector, chiefly by focusing on and transforming procurement and subsequently, culture too.

Highlighting that some procurement initiatives can take years and decades to complete, Mark says the way to address this systemic slowness of procurement and change control bureaucracies, is to transform them using these Cloud ideals.

At Immigration they have put in place a Continuous Delivery system that is always in operation, applying automated testing and public Cloud provisioning to all the code that is fed in. This enables them to work with a much higher frequency of smaller volumes of new system requirements, and be in a continual state of always deploying these new features to production at a high rate. In short to work at a higher rate of innovation.

The especially powerful effect of this approach is that it greatly lowers the cost and risk of experimentation.

As a consequence every one across the organization can be encouraged to be more innovative, to try out new ideas by putting in the code requests and spinning up the prototype applications.

With the public sector having a notorious reputation for a high price for project failures it’s no surprise risk aversion can be a strong force to overcome to drive innovative change. By lowering this price and visibly setting a cultural tone of encouraged experimentation, these systemic dynamics can be addressed and a enterprise-wide culture of innovation unleashed.

These new, accelerated approaches to software development and deployment will have considerable impact downstream on the IT Service Operations team, captured in this AWS blog by Mark, where he notes:

“In my role as CIO of USCIS I once made the mistake of not paying enough attention to that portion of ops that lies outside of DevOps. We had a large initiative going on with about 15 agile teams. When they released code into production, they found that they needed to set up a process for handling user problems and questions, production incidents, and monitoring alerts.

As the system became more complex, this burden became heavier. In a few cases, business leaders as well as teams working on other systems downstream and upstream complained that they hadn’t been notified of outages that affected them.”

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