Vivek’s “Cloud First”- Right On!

A few days ago, I read Vivek Kundra’s “Reflections on Public Service.” It is a wonderful document that tells about his aspirations for and accomplishments with government IT. You can access it by clicking here . Presently, I want to comment on how important Vivek’s Cloud First concept is to the Social Security Administration.

Vivek nails it when he calls for “reducing the Federal Government’s reliance on what we call “Big Iron” and shifting to the cloud.” But what does this mean at SSA? When we considered the obvious moves to the cloud- like moving email and collaboration to the cloud- we could not see significant gains. And the idea of moving core applications to the cloud, whether private or public, seemed impractical, if not impossible. It is too enormous a task to take SSA’s core IT functions and rewrite them for the cloud.

So where does the cloud come in? It forces SSA to rethink how it does its core functions. Simply rewriting its core functions for the cloud is not the way to go. The “Cloud First” principle forces us to redesign our core business processes for handling our core functions in a modern IT environment. It shifts our thinking from “rewrite” to “transform.” And Vivek is absolutely correct in saying that this is the way to go. Rethinking our business processes and moving them to the cloud will, indeed, allow Social Security to deliver better services at significantly reduced costs.

Vivek should be proud of his accomplishments. His initiatives have already shown some successes. But, I believe more importantly, his forcing us to rethink how we do IT in government will have much greater impact five and ten years down the road. As more and more people in government realize how much more they can do with modern IT environments and paradigms, and become less scared of making the change, we will see big savings and, simultaneously, significant improvement in government service delivery.

Thank you, Vivek, for pushing your vision and good luck at Harvard.