FedRAMP, as Congressman Gerry Connolly said at Carahsoft’s Federal Cloud Marketplace Forum, was “created with good intentions” — designed, he explained, as a means to help speed the adoption of new, more effective technologies by government agencies. At the same event, Federal CIO Suzanne Kent stressed the need to move faster, as government is “looking at the cloud journey as the center of gravity for other things we’re trying to accomplish.” But is FedRAMP helping to drive the adoption of innovative new technologies, and if so, does it help agencies achieve their missions? That was the question posed by Francis Rose to a panel of experts in industry and government on a recent broadcast for the Government Matters Thought Leadership Network.
“Innovation in Government: FedRAMP Solutions & Success Stories” uncovered just how FedRAMP has changed the way federal leaders address IT infrastructure challenges, along with the more important question, “why?”
The federal government is generating and collecting terabytes of data every day, and newer approaches can help agencies make use of it all. Carmen Krueger, Senior Vice President of North American Enterprise, Qualtrics, explained that both experience data (X-data, in Qualtric’s terminology) and operational data (O-data) need to be understood together, adding, “In the past, we’ve used data to justify a decision that’s been made in the absence of data making that decision. Today, we need to use data to drive our decision making and drive our innovation.”
Her colleague, Trevor Delew, Head of Federal for Qualtrics, added that, without FedRAMP, the process of bringing on new technologies takes too long. “Agencies that have the ATO (Authority to Operate) in place can go out and solve really important problems at a moment’s notice,” he said, citing issues such as providing better outcomes to veterans, public health policy enhancements and improving the legal immigration process.
However, Krueger said, technology and the data being captured all needs to be in service of the mission. This was echoed later in the broadcast by Chad Sheridan, the IT Director, Farm Production and Conservation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Driven by a mission to connect farmers and ranchers more easily with resources and to drive collaboration between the agency and its stakeholders, the agency has leveraged the cloud to deliver success.
Sheridan said that USDA has consolidated from 39 to just two data centers in only a few years’ time, and the agency is now looking at SaaS solutions to continue to drive efficiencies and deliver on the mission. For example, the USDA leveraged Salesforce to create a new program for its Farm Service Agency (FSA). The Bridges to Opportunity program provides farmers and ranchers with information on non-USDA programs because the information is accessible to tens of thousands of employees across the USDA’s many agencies, it provides easy access to farmers and ranchers while creating efficiencies and reducing costs for the organization.
Andrew Randall Salesforce’s Vice President, Product Management, added that Salesforce has continued to build upon its relationship with the USDA. In addition to the Bridges to Opportunity program, Salesforce has also assisted the agency with its migration toward a single shared services cloud environment. This environment facilitates better communication and collaboration between USDA’s IT teams. It also helps to avoid duplication of data management and reduces costs associated with programming and IT expenses. All of this creates a happier, more productive and satisfied employee base that has more time to deliver value-added services to U.S. farmers.
Noted Randall, “it doesn’t bring any value if you can run a great data center. What brings value is if you can execute the mission.” He said that agencies are learning “it’s possible to have engagement with citizens and with other agencies and employees. They can use SaaS and use FedRAMP to find solutions so they can focus on their mission and engagement.”
To that point, Sheridan said that, for both citizens and employees, USDA has seen a “multi-generational level of trust.” He wants to remove barriers to that trust, so that citizens and employees can focus on their farm loans or conservation programs, as opposed to “chasing down paper.” FedRAMP, he said, removes roadblocks along the way, allowing them to go “from idea to value in the shortest amount of time possible.”
Want more insights on FedRAMP and how agencies are rethinking tech’s impact on their missions? Click to watch the video.