Connecting state and local government leaders
With states at various stages of cloud maturity, their cloud architects must align business solutions with strategic goals.
As states look to cloud architects to help them manage their cloud infrastructure and partnerships, those individuals must focus on relationship management and ensuring vendors are aligned with the state’s strategies, a leading enterprise architect said.
Because many states do not have staff with cloud backgrounds, they must rely on vendors to provide specialized expertise. That puts the onus on the government cloud architect and those in similar positions to combine technological and business skills in their role.
But the job of cloud architect can be “amorphous” and difficult to define, said Eric Sweden, program director of enterprise architecture and governance at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, as there is so much variation in the job requirements between states.
“[Cloud architects] need to be able to think in terms of, how do we ready an agency, how do we ready state government first?” Sweden said during Nextgov’s Cloud Summit. Cloud architects should say: “Let's not just buy things, we're not going to buy things until we know we're ready to employ them. We have an execution plan, we have a transformation plan that includes adoption, meaning if we're going to buy a solution, we have to have a way to deliver it so it actually gets used.”
A state’s chief information officer must play a similar role in building and maintaining relationships with vendors, an effort that Sweden said is a “team sport” that also includes a state’s chief privacy officer and other high-ranking IT officials. And with outside vendors offering a whole suite of cloud options, those officials are responsible for ensuring that the right relationships and contracts are in place to advance their goals.
“This whole roadmap for state government and its use of technology, it's changed,” Sweden said. “We're not developing things inside as much as we're steering, we're orchestrating with our corporate partners – and they're bringing us ideas that we wouldn't think of, unless they were there.”
With service providers offering dozens of cloud solutions, it is also imperative that a state's cloud architect understand how vendors are defining cloud, Sweden said, especially as the industry continues to mature and evolve.
And while IT staff may be responsible for managing the cloud infrastructure, the cloud architects also must also keep their skills up to date and stay on top of regulations to ensure compliance.
“This concept of adaptability, flexibility, scalability – we can't always do that with internal staff,” Sweden said. “In fact, I think it's rarely we can manage that. We've got a boatload of requirements coming in from the agencies, we don't have the staff to meet it.”
Sweden said to make the job of cloud architect less amorphous and more uniform across state agencies, IT leaders must take more ownership of writing the job description and defining the role themselves. Too often, he said, the tasks of filling jobs and vetting applications is “delegated to someone who doesn’t know what we’re actually trying to accomplish,” something he said “we’ve got to fix.”