By Lance Horne, General Manager, GovDelivery Federal Team
Has anyone ever encouraged you to act more like an entrepreneur? If you’ve been given well-meaning advice about being more nimble and agile in your federal agency, then you probably know what I’m talking about. The Merriam Webster definition of entrepreneur is “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” And while most entrepreneurs have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish, they may not have all the core skills to achieve their goals.
Within government, you are mission-driven. That means that you’re placed in a position to perform a vitally needed service to the American public, whether you work in the Department of Defense or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. I think we can all agree that your ability to reach the right audience, measure your efforts and provide a forum for citizens to consume and respond to information is vital to your agency’s success. Like an entrepreneur, it’s understandable that agencies might not have the time – or the expertise – to figure out how to manage every aspect of their organization or service, such as on-premise technology that facilitates and manages government-to-citizen (G2C) communications.
With the mandate to do more with less continuing into the foreseeable future, your agency might not have the bandwidth to set up appropriate systems for outreach and communication. But that’s where an entrepreneurial spirit can be used to your advantage. You may be relying on a variety of disparate systems that are daisy-chained together to reach citizens. Or, you may simply lack appropriate funding for a complete system overhaul. But you have an entrepreneurial option that can help – cloud computing.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
Leveraging industry providers with cloud computing capabilities that have the capacity to effectively reach millions of recipients can be a better, more cost-effective approach. Cloud services help you achieve greater efficiencies much more quickly than trying to piecemeal technology together on your own. And instead of lengthy implementation cycles, cloud-based solutions help you implement a better solution in days or weeks rather than months or years
Further, cloud computing isn’t merely an option any more. The Office of Management and Budget issued a “cloud first” policy nearly two years ago to federal agencies and departments. This policy was put together to achieve operational efficiencies by adopting “light” technology and shared services. Many agencies have used email-as-a-service as the entry point for cloud computing. But they could do so much more. For example, look at how the General Services Administration (GSA) has dramatically expanded outreach through an aggressive roll-out of cloud-based enterprise digital communication platform.
One of GSA’s first moves into the cloud was its implementation of a citizen-centric email update service in February 2006 to enhance citizen access to government information. The agency’s existing “one size fits all” newsletter was replaced with a service that offered the public updates on over 140 specific topics.
From 2006 to 2010, the agency’s reach expanded from an active base of less than 50,000 to over 260,000 – a total increase of more than 500 percent. Even more notable, the amount of direct communication with the public increased from under 250,000 to over 1.4 million digital touches per month.
Let’s face it – the prospect of doing this on your own is daunting. And that takes me full circle to functioning like an entrepreneur, which really means focusing on what you know best: taking care of citizen needs. I encourage you to jump on the cloud and leave the G2C heavy lifting – a more cost-effective approach – to industry experts.
I’d like to hear about your experiences with cloud computing. Where have you had success? What have you found challenging?