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Cloud services continue to be one of the hot topics for government managers; however, the real-life implications of cloud transition are much more nuanced.

Recently, Ovum completed its latest survey of cloud in the Australian federal government. The 2018 survey builds on an earlier survey from 2015, and is complemented by a series of face-to-face executive interviews and workshops in the intervening period. The results were collated to build a more complete picture of the pragmatics of government agencies transitioning to the cloud. The full results will be published in a future Ovum report, but in the meantime, here are some of the key findings.

Policy and planning are important ingredients for setting cloud direction, but these ingredients need to be supported by a strategy for cultural change within the enterprise. The 2015 survey found that government policy was the top business driver for moving to the cloud. At first glance, this would appear to be a welcome response, indicating that government cloud policy had achieved its objective. However, more in-depth assessment revealed a very different interpretation of these results.

Other survey responses showed that "government policy" was also the highest priority business use case. The follow-up, face-to-face interviews revealed that there was a high degree of suspicion over cloud solutions. Many were reluctantly moving to the cloud, only because it was government policy. It was a forced march, lacking energy and commitment.

The 2018 survey clearly showed the government marketplace had changed considerably. While government policy still ranked high in survey responses, it was just one of many business opportunities being explored using the cloud. Government managers were no longer focusing on whether cloud would do the job, but on how to drive and manage the transition to cloud-based solutions.

Shadow IT was also an area that was heavily nuanced in its survey responses. Many saw cloud as a way of dealing with shadow IT, because cloud enabled IT services to be more agile and responsive to changing business needs. However, cloud has also opened the door to a plethora of unapproved cloud solutions. During the face-to-face interviews, one business manager noted that it was possible to use non-IT funds to spin up a solution, run the solution, and then spin it down, before anybody even noticed.

Cybersecurity was an area of significant change in the period between the two surveys. The 2015 survey reported significant concerns that commercial cloud offerings were not up to the job of meeting stringent government requirements. Many government managers were unconvinced. The 2018 survey reported a significant turnaround. This time, security was listed as the top reason for transitioning to the cloud. Even though there are heightened concerns about cybersecurity, cloud is now seen as part of the solution, rather than as part of the problem.

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