The Path to the Cloud for Government Agencies

For government agencies, the advantages of cloud services are clear: They scale instantly, there are no capital investments, they offer more flexibility and better performance.

There is also an urgency to modernize, as citizens expect a more consumer-like experience from their governments — for example, when renewing a license online, using a mobile app to pay for parking, or filing for unemployment services from home.

But compared to their peers in the private sector, the cloud migration path for governments is murkier, particularly when it comes to navigating strict security and compliance requirements. Yet many organizations have successfully made the transition by using the power of cloud processes to derive new insights, automate business processes, and spark innovation — all without compromising security.

SAP National Security Services, Inc. (SAP NS2) is a wholly owned subsidiary of SAP founded with the mission of securely delivering SAP solutions to organizations that support the country’s most critical workloads. At a moment when the need to digitally transform has never been more important for government organizations, Harish Luthra, president of SAP NS2 Cloud, shares some of the process and decisions that customers go through on their path to a successful cloud migration.

Understanding the Drivers

There are significant budgetary, operational, and regulatory hurdles that government agencies have to manage through as part of a cloud migration, but the benefits realized from a faster and nimbler IT system justify the effort. While each organization has its own unique motivations for a move to the cloud, these benefits underpin every decision:

  • Faster, more precise decision-making: Cloud solutions enable advanced analytics, which helps agencies understand their data and make smarter decisions in real time. The impact of this for federal data sets cannot be understated: consider a federal agency customer that uses SAP SuccessFactors to keep track of more than 10 million completed trainings annually for more than 600,000 employees.
  • Simpler interfaces and better collaboration: Integrating many – sometimes dozens – of siloed systems into a single interface allows means simpler processes and a more holistic understanding of programs. This integration also supports a benefit that is becoming increasingly critical as agencies contend with an extended remote workforce: the cloud promotes easier collaboration for team members, whether they’re in the office or in the field.
  • Enhanced security: Despite concerns about losing total control of data, the cloud actually enables innovation in security. For instance, cloud can serve as a platform for automated cybersecurity patching, which rapidly corrects any flaws in an agency’s software coding.

“The public sector has a responsibility to keep data secure,” Luthra said. “In the cloud, government can do just that, all the while gaining modern insights to fuel decision-making and service provision.”

Navigating Specific Requirements

For government agencies, the question of security is at the heart of every IT project. To help pave the way to broader cloud adoption and more nimble IT projects, the federal government launched a program to create a standardized approach to security for the cloud. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP)  provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. Using a “do once, use many times” framework, FedRAMP saves time and costs by enabling rapid procurement of information systems and services, eliminates duplicate assessment efforts, and ensures consistent application of information security standards across all government organizations.

SAP NS2 offers a suite of FedRAMP-certified cloud solutions, allowing U.S. customers across government and regulated industries to benefit from SAP innovation and technology. The newly rebranded FedRAMP environment SAP NS2 Cloud Intelligent Enterprise includes a suite of intelligent applications and experience management (XM) tools for managing operational transactions, human resources (HR) and people management, analytics, and other innovative capabilities. The solutions include SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Payroll and the newly approved service SAP Analytics Cloud.

According to Luthra, “Government agencies need a simple way to access critical information to make informed decisions. With machine learning technology and embedded artificial intelligence, customers can discover, analyze, plan, and predict in one experience across all devices.”

Finding Value in the Cloud

Once an organization has pushed through the questions of value and compliance to begin a cloud journey, the impact is swift. The U.S. Navy is an important example of this. After adopting a cloud-first policy in early 2017, the organization underwent one of the government’s largest cloud migrations, consolidating more than 20 enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems under an accelerated timeline.

As Brandon Wehler, technical director for Enterprise Business Solutions at the Department of Defense, shared last month during a SAPPHIRE NOW Reimagined presentation on the Navy’s migration, their move to the cloud was driven by the need to address performance improvement and ease of use of its aging on-premise infrastructure, and to improve data quality and accessibility as well as auditability and compliance. But the migration process was daunting: With over 700 servers and a data footprint in the petabytes, the move took months of planning and data restructuring.

Today’s Navy ERP is modern and scalable, allowing for simpler use and faster response times. The organization saw an immediate benefit from its cloud environment as its navigated the onset of COVID-19 earlier this year. There were no impacts to the user community or availability of systems, which likely would have occurred in the old environment. Most importantly, the Navy is now set up for continued modernization and scalability as next-generation cloud technology advances and matures, and to bring more pieces of its organization into the ERP system, to enhance its overall financial and auditable accountability.

As the Navy’s story illustrates, a cloud migration is the start – a driver – of ongoing flexibility, security, and modernity. Luthra summarized it this way: “For government organizations, the real impact of a cloud migration isn’t the faster and more flexible execution of an on-premise system, but the realization of possibilities that can be accomplished, and accomplished securely, within this nimbler and evolving infrastructure.”


Learn more about how SAP NS2 achieved FedRAMP certification for SAP Analytics Cloud and the roadmap for bringing future cloud solutions into the FedRAMP portfolio. Register here.

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