Steven Dreher is the Director of Solution Architecture at Green House Data.
As the longtime CTO of the Wyoming Supreme Court, I’ve watched enterprise IT evolve from a very different perspective than many in the data center industry. For one thing, with less flexible funding that must be approved across various branches of government on any given cycle, all of our projects required significant lead time. Agility is difficult at the government level.
But we’re starting to see government organizations from the Fed on down turning toward the cloud, consolidating data centers, and using private companies as service providers. Amidst this shift, I’ve joined a private company myself.
Whether you’re freshly FedRAMP compliant and trying to woo government agencies as they consolidate their data centers, or just curious how to overcome your own internal political battles for IT priorities, these insights can help.
The Public Sector Space is Ripe for Big Data
Usually, the public sector is more hesitant to adopt or embrace new technologies. However, data is the exception. Being able to collect, compile, and analyze data across a given vertical can be a treasure to policy writers and decision makers.
However, developing the talent and tools to do so is a large barrier to many public sector organizations that often operate on a shoestring. Statewide or nationwide initiatives have costs that often reach billions of dollars and ultimately yield very little fruit (or fail outright). One example of this is the initial rollout of healthcare.gov, widely considered a massive and expensive flop as millions struggled to access the site. Part of the problem is too many vested interests and the turnover that occurs when officials leave office. The drivers of a given initiative may have left long before the project is completed. At other times, the complexity of a government organization gets in the way, and responsibilities are too dispersed.
A provider with the expertise to offer a managed big data solution, with the resources to scale at an attractive price point, can offer an entryway to big data platforms for government groups.
There is Often a Gap Between Policy Writers, Decision Makers and Technology
I started with long lead times for a reason—there’s a catch up period between enterprise adoption of technology and government pulling the trigger on it. That means that once you convince a government IT office on the value of your solution, they’ll have to work up the chain to first demonstrate the technology itself, then secure funding and approval for it.
Once you have helped your government prospect fight to secure a project with your company, don’t be surprised if it is changed midstream or even outright cancelled. The reason for this? There is an inevitable tide of politics and changes of priority in public sector work. The range of stakeholders on particularly large projects in the public sphere is very large, and sometimes undefined. An election cycle or key management retirements can throw a wrench into your entire deployment.
That can be similar to an enterprise environment, where different departments and managers have different goals and priorities, each of which helped drive a given IT project. Suddenly, that desktop virtualization project is given less priority than disaster recovery, as systems went down for a brief period last week. Or a new CFO requires a new SaaS platform as they revamp the department.
In either environment, these shifts create opportunities to build bridges and alignment with political (or employee) supporters, while presenting new challenges or creating talking points for critics. You must prioritize yourself in order to complete projects and provide the organization with the technology it needs to succeed.
Recruiting IT Talent Can Be Difficult in the Public Space
While government jobs have the reputation of being a cushy, guaranteed gig with retirement benefits, the public sector often can’t offer as competitive of compensation as public companies for in-demand positions like IT.
For a data center provider, that means the more remote hands and managed services you can provide to a government entity, the more value you’re bringing to the table, especially if you can do it in a package without adding as much cost as a full-time employee would. Your expertise must supplement the staff they do have available.
Public access to information is in its infancy and will remain a major opportunity for data center providers. As a society, the expectations regarding public information tools and data are expanding exponentially. This involves more convenient ways to interact with government bodies: Can I pay my property taxes online, or initiate a court case without having to physically drive to a courthouse? Even as we start to see these systems emerging, we are nowhere near the full potential of digital government.
Your company might not offer the platform for these solutions, but you can certainly host them. As more and more government offices go digital, data center providers must be there with the security and availability to offer vital services to citizens and public offices, from the local level up to federal programs.
Every organization faces its own political challenges, and the data center industry is no different. While major opportunities exist among the public sector, take a hard look at previous mishaps to prove how, as a service provider, you can help take government IT to a different level and relieve some of those political pressures.
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