Reigning the Cloud in a High-Velocity Digital World
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Reigning the Cloud in a High-Velocity Digital World

By Srikanth Karra, CIO, Jefferson County Commission

Srikanth Karra, CIO, Jefferson County Commission

A closer look at today’s fast-paced digital world reveals that businesses are striving hard to keep pace with the technology advances, swiftly execute their strategy without sacrificing quality, customer experience, or security. As businesses look to transform every aspect of their operating model, cloud computing wins hands down as the greatest disruptor officially making into the CIO’s agenda.

Although, private sector was the early adopter of cloud technologies today it’s great to see the government sector, especially municipalities including state and federal governments get on the cloud bandwagon.

The adoption of cloud services continues to rise in the government sector due to the increased efficiency, mobility, cost-effectiveness, streamlined collaboration, and speed of connectivity.

Overcoming the Barriers to Cloud Adoption

Funding has been the major barrier for the government sector to effectively deploy hardware and data center infrastructure. To that end, cloud technologies emerge as a boon for the government IT sector, where they can leverage the latest technologies, without having to spend money to build a platform from scratch. The key factor of cloud technology that allures the government sector is the turnaround time. It is much quicker than traditional platforms where the design, development, and going live processes are long drawn.

Although the cloud has brought a myriad of benefits, a sizeable percentage of the Government organizations are still hesitant to transfer the data to the cloud citing security concerns. It is the legal responsibility of the government sector organizations to keep the data in a protective environment that makes them rethink on their security strategies. Against this backdrop, cloud solution providers come to the rescue for organizations with a commercial cloud and government cloud offering. An additional layer of safety is reinforced just to meet government compliance and regulations like HIPAA, CJIS, NIST 800-171, NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) etc and ensure that data is well protected and safeguarded.

"With the right mindset, attitude, partner, and right technologies that match an organization's goals, organizations can achieve great strides in the cloud landscape."

Right Partner is the Key

Cloud is a big change for organizations. To achieve success in the cloud adoption, the first and foremost factor is to choose the right business partner whose cloud strategy aligns with the organization’s goals and requirements. To get this standardization, one must carry out due diligence before identifying vendors and assessing whether they have the right technologies in this space.

Once all the aspects like the vendor’s credibility, financial background and more are verified, businesses can then ascertain if the solution aligns with the industry trends. Gartner has been phenomenal in terms of researching these companies and they have their magic quadrant that lists the best players in the cloud arena. With the right mindset, attitude, partner, and right technologies that match an organization's goals, businesses can achieve greater success in the cloud landscape.

The Cloud Advantage

As the CIO of Jefferson County, my perspective of the cloud landscape takes on a completely new direction. To support our cloud implementation goals, we have deployed a cloud-based office 365. Simultaneously, we are revamping and making sure that we have full-fledged disaster recovery and business continuity solutions in place for which we have recently signed an enterprise agreement with Microsoft. We are leveraging Azure cloud technologies while maintaining robust partnerships with industry leaders.

We also are migrating our ERP-SAP environment to cloud. Presently we are in the process of identifying the right cloud solution to integrate with our few remaining mainframe applications. By taking our platforms to the cloud, we are hoping to reduce the hardware maintenance costs and leverage cloud technologies to its fullest potential in decreasing other regular costs.

There are several major projects in the pipeline including several data center upgrades which includes Disaster Recover (DR). To take it to the next level, we presently operate in a virtualized server environment and are planning to introduce hyper-convergence and bring all the technologies under a single cloud-based infrastructure. This enables us to take advantage of all the benefits the cloud can bring while allowing applications to be more agile, resilient, scale quickly, and be available to customers and employees wherever there is the internet. 

By providing seamless access to data from any location, the cloud is empowering companies to stay connected and improve their business outcomes. Various technological trends like multi-cloud strategies, hybrid cloud, PaaS (Platform as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) are ready to take the cloud space by storm. Along with that AI and Machine learning are going to drive the next wave of cloud adoption. As we see further adoption of connected devices using IoT for smart cities, it’s only natural that cloud usage will continue to increase. Furthermore, these devices are not only becoming more connected but also more intelligent.

For any organizational change, having a supportive team at the helm is very crucial. Luckily for us at Jefferson County, we have forward-thinking and supportive Commissioners, County Manager’s Office and other Executive Team members who are key enablers in the transition to the cloud.

Stepping Stones to Success

The core strength of Jefferson Countylies with our professional team. My role as a CIO involves meeting with internal and external stakeholders, leaders and building partnerships, understanding their concerns, issues and working towards accomplishing the desired tasks. It is important for any leader to first understand their organization needs and then embark on setting up an action plan to initiate changes, with the help of new, proven and secure technologies. Another key aspect to a leader is listening skills, as this ability is a crucial soft skill. Attentive listening makes people feel recognized and appreciated and builds trust. That, in turn, helps organizations to be more aligned with their goals, better performance, productivity, and greater innovation.

Another key aspect is the willingness and ability to learn at every step. Things change fast in the technology world and keeping up with new trends constantly emerging is a very difficult task. CIOs must make an active effort to keep their eyes and ears open for new trends and technologies. A CIO can have a great idea, but if they lack proper budget and right people, they really cannot go much further. No organization is successful without the right people working together to achieve a worthwhile goal. That said, probably the hardest job for any CIO is to find a way to attract and retain the very best talent.

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