Podcast Episode #18 - Public Sector Adoption of Office 365 and Cloud Technology

Posted by Jenny Lynch on May 13, 2016

digital workplace podcast

On this episode of the Digital Workplace Today Podcast, we talk again with Dr. Dale Tuttle, COO of Portal Solutions and multiple-episode guest of the podcast, about public sector adoption of cloud based tools like Office 365.

Discussion of this topic on our blog and podcast is far past due. This episode gives some insight into how the public sector is beginning to embrace all the benefits and cost savings that are out there and available with adopting cloud services.

Listen to this episode to hear it all, or read the show notes for an overview of the conversation and links to some of the key items discussed. 

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The State of Public Sector Cloud Technology Adoption Today


Dale, can you go ahead and shed some light on the public sector and how they're embracing new cloud technologies?


Absolutely. There's an interesting duality here where the federal government has a mandate to use cloud services as much as possible, and that mandate is over five years old. The federal government started to lead in the adoption of the cloud, at least in their policies.

The pace of adoption, thought, is quite slow. That's really what we're talking about today, the slowness, but lately we're starting to see the public sector adopt more and more cloud services. Office 365 is one of the most popular ones being adopted.


Are there restrictions with different public sector agencies adopting Office 365? Because I know sometimes, like you said, the government, no fault of its own, can be slow in adopting new technology. 


Yeah, the different agencies have different rules, but there is something called the Microsoft Gov Cloud. What happens, or what has happened, is the federal government will certify, through a program called FedRAMP, that a particular cloud platform conforms to certain standards,. There are federal information protection standards, NIS standards, and all these things.

What Microsoft does, and other cloud vendors do as well, is they will certify their cloud platforms. They call them their "Gov Clouds." So there's a Microsoft Gov Cloud. There's an Amazon Web Services Gov Cloud. All the vendors have their own.

These things are certified to a certain security standard, and that means they are then available to be used by public sector agencies. Now, we should differentiate between certain types of agencies. The EPA, or Department of Labor, or FDA: these are civilian agencies. The military or the NSA has a whole different standard and security model, which typically is not covered by FedRAMP.

How Do Organizations Get Started?


So how would a public agency or organization get started? What typically is the first entry into the Cloud environment for the public sector?


What we're seeing is more and more RFPs coming out for Office 365 support. We're working on one right now, and we're actually seeing several more coming out with our federal partners. What that means is that they're finally getting comfortable with committing to Office 365.

Within Office 365, the first tool most organizations start using is email. The second is SharePoint Online. And the third is often Skype or OneDrive for Business.

One tool that is not yet certified for the public sector is Power BI. I can't wait for that. That'll be huge, because the data analytics capabilities of that tool are really astounding, and it would be so inexpensive and available to Office 365 users. Once that comes to the public sector, I suspect that our own data practice will have even a whole new market to start working with.

The Benefits of Adopting New Technology


What we've been talking about, in terms of the Office 365 pricing model, stands to be a huge cost savings for government, right? 


Needing only one subscription will get you so much more capability. When you're talking about Office 365, one subscription will get you all the different tools and apps that are on Gov Cloud, of which there are tons.

What the government wants help with is using the big tools better, like SharePoint Online. But they also need help understanding how to introduce the additional tools that are available, like Office Video. Video's a big one. Delve, how do they use Delve effectively? How do they use Skype? How do they use Planner?

They don't know how to do this, so what we're finding is these agencies are setting up what they call their Office 365 "Center of Excellence." They have commercial vendors, like Portal Solutions, come in and help them establish best practices, or set up something like SharePoint Online, and review how to introduce the usage of Office 365 videos into their organization. It's a new tool set for them, and they need help in implementing it.


Is there special pricing for licensing for the government?


Yeah, there are different price points and subscription models for public sector customers. Microsoft, and all the cloud vendors, they have both commercial teams and public sector teams. They have their own prices, and there's pretty much a wall between those two parts of the firms. They'll share information, but they have their own metrics, their own targets, and that's not just Microsoft. That's every vendor, Oracle, Amazon, VMware, Rackspace, everybody. That's how they do it. There's a public sector team and there's everybody else.

The Benefits of the Cloud


What would you say are the high level benefits for the government moving to the Cloud?


Really, it's the same stuff you'd see in the commercial side. You're going to see cost savings. You get out of the business of hosting infrastructure and maintaining software licenses. There's a huge management overhead that goes with that, not to mention the direct cost of buying servers, and keeping the electricity on, and all that sort of good stuff. Then, you have to manage your licenses, and it's a pain. It's hard to do over time. It's expensive.

When you move to the Cloud, the software and the hardware costs are rolled up into your subscription cost. Now, but the gotcha...not so much with Office 365, but if you start adopting Azure and you're moving your infrastructure to the Cloud...is you need to manage your costs very carefully because you'll stand up these virtual machines, and you'll stand up all this capability. The length of time these things run and how much data are running through your Azure tools and services, that's what you get charged on.

What happens is you start standing up these environments and you stand up more, and more, and more, and you lose track of the ones you've stood up. Then all of a sudden you get that monthly statement.... Actually, this has happened to us, and it happened in my previous life at another company. The point is, you need to manage the costs. A human needs to track the usage and manage these costs. 

Listen for More…

Listen to the full podcast to hear our full conversation with Dale. We touched on many other points including an expansion of our discussion of the speed of public sector adoption, how to control cloud costs effectively, and some of Dale's best tips on cloud adoption.




This is our wish list item of the week. Dale, if there was something you wish Microsoft would do, it would be what? 


Fast track Power BI onto the Gov Cloud.


Fair enough. I think the government would definitely agree with you. I think it's coming. I can't say a date, but I think it's coming. 



If you missed our last episode, head over and listen to our conversation (also) with Dr. Dale Tuttle All About Azure. In the podcast prior to that, we talked with Cat Norris on The State of Workflows in 2016.



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Topics: Office 365, Cloud Solutions, Podcast


Jenny Lynch

Jenny Lynch is Director of Marketing, Microsoft Solutions and Services, at Withum. Jenny brings more than 15 years of experience in the marketing and sales industry with an emphasis in developing highly targeted marketing, public relation and social media campaigns.

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