Aug 04 2020

How State IT Leaders Can Navigate a World Changed by the Coronavirus

As agencies think about supporting remote work long term, they need to determine the kind of infrastructure that will make the most sense for their applications.

In 2019, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers conducted a survey of state CIOs to identify the top policy and technology issues facing state governments. The survey found that cybersecurity and risk management, digital government and cloud services were top of mind for IT leaders. However, the abrupt change in workforce norms caused by the coronavirus pandemic forced them to revisit these top priorities as they worked to accommodate telework policies.

Now, as state government agencies look to implement long-term remote work strategies, they must develop a cost-effective, secure and flexible IT infrastructure. To make this effort successful, IT leaders must take a cloud-smart approach, maximize their resources and invest in reliable technologies.

How Agencies Can Move Forward and Become Cloud-Smart

With COVID-19 accelerating digital transformation, the federal government has made it a priority to move to the cloud, putting pressure on organizations to honor policies like the Data Center Optimization Initiative. However, with available funds and resources varying at the state level, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and states’ current cloud models could hold them back from following through on necessary modernization efforts.

Over the past few years, both state and federal agencies have flip-flopped between private and public clouds as the “ideal” environment. As remote work saw a huge increase due to the pandemic, shifting to the public cloud seemed to be ideal for a quick and immediate solution, with a recent Gartner report predicting there will be a 19 percent growth in public cloud spending in 2020.

However, historically, cloud solutions prove to be more of a problem for organizations. According to the 2019 Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index, nearly 49 percent of public sector organizations reported public cloud budget overages, with 16 percent being described as greatly over budget. As state and local agencies are restricted by increasingly tight IT budgets due to the economic turmoil that has come with the pandemic, it’s essential for them to understand the long-term implications of their cloud model choices.

Regardless of which model agencies rely on currently, state IT leaders must take a step back to evaluate what makes the most sense for their applications as they try to determine the best path forward as the pandemic evolves.

When making these decisions, understanding the type of application is critical in determining whether it’s best for it to live in a public or private cloud. For dynamic applications that are more unpredictable and can experience dramatic spikes in use under unexpected or deadline-driven conditions — for example, increased unemployment applications due to COVID-19 layoffs, or spikes in department of motor vehicle workloads as citizens try to meet the deadline for receiving their Real ID driver’s licenses — public cloud providers offer an optimal solution.

By contrast, static applications, where workloads are consistent and predictable over time, are great candidates to maintain on-premises because the costs of owning and maintaining infrastructure to run them are lower in the long run.

However, the answer may not live solely within a public or private cloud solution. A recent study found that 75 percent of public sector IT managers believe they should be moving to cloud more aggressively, and 77 percent believe a hybrid IT model is the most effective approach for public sector organizations. With this in mind, investing in a hybrid cloud solution is one way state agencies can control their spending while being able to choose the right workload for each application. The increased flexibility and corresponding cost savings associated with hybrid cloud will allow state agencies to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing environment spurred by the pandemic.

READ MORE: Find out how state governments have addressed legacy IT in a time of crisis.

Adopt IT Solutions That Do Not Require Extensive Training

With the pandemic leading to layoffs and furloughs across the country, organizations must take additional caution with their spending. Since March, the public sector has shed approximately 1.5 million jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Now that state governments must operate with a limited workforce, they cannot confidently hire IT managers with a background in public cloud and do not have the resources to train current employees.

Because of this, state IT leaders should look to implement cost-effective solutions with platforms that state workers can operate without extensive training. This effort will allow them to keep their IT infrastructure running regardless of any employee turnover.

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out how to protect remote workers from phishing attacks.

Maintaining a Secure, Remote Workforce for the Long Term

Public sector leaders have historically downplayed the potential for a remote workforce due to the strict protocols and access requirements that come with government work. However, the shift to telework during the pandemic has proved that it’s possible — and necessary — for states to have the right infrastructure to support increased telework. Further, state leaders are embracing this change and want to identify the best tools to maintain a remote workforce.

As government offices extend to workers’ homes, and agencies adapt for the long term, Desktop as a Service and VDI solutions can be easily integrated to support remote employees. DaaS would allow employees to continue their day-to-day workflow securely with app integration based on user credentials, easing endpoint management challenges.

Teams are learning to work and collaborate virtually, increasing agency employees’ need for greater flexibility in where and how they work and which devices they use. By eliminating the worries that come with maintaining a remote workforce, IT leaders can focus their efforts toward additional modernization strategies.

Advancing Infrastructure for the Future

The pandemic has brought on an unexpected acceleration in digital transformation, causing state agencies to innovate their technologies, reevaluate their IT infrastructure and strategize to support long-term telework.

As IT decision-makers look to make changes, they will be best served by evaluating their applications and making cloud-smart decisions that will support their agency’s specific needs, while also investing in the technologies required to support the future remote public sector workforce.

DOWNLOAD: Read this white paper to find out how state and local agencies can manage cloud consumption for optimal results. 

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