May 04 2023

NASCIO 2023 Midyear: Arizona CIO Talks Cloud Adoption Strategies

A session at the annual conference explored initial findings from a NASCIO and Accenture cloud adoption study, along with lessons from Arizona’s cloud journey.

Many state and local governments are still on their cloud adoption journeys and looking for ways to bolster their efforts. Compared with their federal and corporate counterparts, local agencies lag in cloud adoption for several reasons, including a lack of resources, an absence of cloud migration experts in organizations and a reluctance to rely on cloud security.

So, it was no surprise that cloud adoption was a topic of conversation at this year’s National Association of State Chief Information Officers Midyear conference in National Harbor, Md. The annual conference, running this year through May 3, brings together state IT leaders to discuss the latest IT trends, challenges and developments in state and local governments.

On Tuesday, day two of the conference, Arizona CIO J.R. Sloan and Accenture principal director Patrick Moore (formerly the CIO of Georgia) led a learning session on cloud strategy and adoption. The session covered initial findings from a NASCIO and Accenture cloud adoption study to be released in October, with Sloan providing context and commentary around the data based on Arizona’s cloud strategy. The session covered cloud adoption strategies, the general state of cloud in state and local governments, and insights gained from Arizona’s cloud adoption journey.

The report will build on a 2021 Accenture and NASCIO cloud study, which found that the majority of public sector global leaders said that accelerating cloud adoption was “business critical.”

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All States Have a Cloud Roadmap, But Gaps Remain 

The 2023 NASCIO-Accenture report found that all states have completed or are developing a cloud strategy and roadmap, and that 88 percent of state CIOs said they’ve accelerated the adoption of cloud in all or some functional areas, which was largely the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sloan said. State CIOs also identified digital government and digital services as the No. 2 priority for 2023; security was first.

That said, 88 percent of state CIOs said that training and skills gaps are preventing them from adopting more cloud services. Security also remains the top consideration for states when looking into cloud solutions and is a major reason organizations hesitate to migrate to the cloud.

Positioning Cloud as a Tool, Not the End Goal

Moore said to think of the cloud as a tool to be successful. Digital government, identified in the report as the second highest priority for CIOs, isn’t a specific technology in and of itself, he said; instead, it’s a way that governments can do things better.

“Cloud is not about cloud. Cloud is about states doing a better job of making their services available and making it easier to serve citizens. It’s more about the consumption model that cloud is allowing organizations to use, which is changing how we buy and then use technology,” Moore said. “All the things we talk about, whether it be cloud or ‘as a service’ models, they all come down to improving services.”

How Arizona Made Services More Reliable

Sloan said that Arizona decided to adopt a cloud strategy after a large dust storm swept through the Phoenix area in 2011, damaging the state’s data center. Another catalyst: An assessment of the state’s infrastructure revealed a number of physical risks to data centers, causing more concern.

“We started to understand the risk and fragility of our infrastructure,” Sloan said. “The real driver … was asking, ‘How do we deliver reliable and accessible services?’”

Instead of continuing to invest in data center infrastructure, the state decided to partner with cloud providers, adopt a cloud-first policy and eventually shut down aging data centers. As of this year, the state has closed 85 of its 90 data centers.

For the workforce, Sloan said change management was the key. The state’s organizations worked to reskill and train workers to prepare for cloud migration and demonstrate a willingness to invest in their workforce. The state also put together a cloud center of excellence, where agencies can share lessons from their own cloud adoption journeys.

“We all need to be good at understanding change, communicating change and helping organizations embrace change,” he said.

Keep this page bookmarked for our coverage of the NASCIO 2023 Midyear conference. Follow us on Twitter at @StateTech and the official conference Twitter account, @NASCIO. Join the conversation using the hashtag #NASCIO23.

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