Florida Department of Management Services

By Tony Kontzer  |  Posted 01-11-2009 Print Email

Florida Department of Management Services

Unlike Batt, some IT executives who have their first taste of cloud computing can't get enough. Count

Joe Wright, CIO of the Florida Department of Management Services, among that group.

Wright came to the cloud more by happenstance than by design. He never made a decision to adopt a cloud strategy; rather, he simply started looking at SaaS alternatives whenever his staff had processing needs that his existing resources couldn't accommodate, or if he saw an opportunity to significantly cut application-related costs.

More often than not, the SaaS option made more sense than any other choice. "If anything," Wright says, "speed to market drove it initially, and then the recognition of the much more manageable costs has driven it further."

Whereas a company like Author Solutions chose to standardize on a SaaS platform, Wright is taking a best-of-breed approach, finding niche service offerings that meet specific needs. So far, he's adopted two such offerings: A knowledge base and customer service tool from RightNow Technologies is powering the "Get Answers" application on the state's MyFlorida.com portal, and another service, Chrome Systems' Carbook Fleet Edition, manages the state's vehicle procurement.

Wright is looking into SaaS options for a variety of other processes, too, such as citizen request-and-response tracking, e-mail and calendaring, learning management and asset management.

"As we talk about vendors that have systems available," Wright says, "the first question I ask is, 'Do you have a hosted version available?' We're not making large investments in software if we don't have to." Wright also is interested in cloud infrastructure offerings, such as Amazon's EC2 and S3 services.

Once Wright identifies a service he's interested in, he performs some due diligence. He works with the vendor to verify that the security of data--at rest and in transfer--is sufficient.

Wright looks for services that have built-in redundancy and strong disaster recovery processes, an important consideration in hurricane country. He also makes sure access to data is guaranteed around the clock, and he checks on the location of data storage to make sure citizen records don't end up on overseas servers.

"It first has to meet the criteria of the business," Wright says. "Once it does, it's a matter of making sure it meets our other criteria and that we're comfortable with the solution."

No system under Wright's purview is safe. Even if it's working fine, if it's associated with higher costs, it's fair game. Given that his evaluations have shown that the cost of an SaaS product can be as little as one-fortieth the cost of an internally deployed application, his strategy appears to make sense.

Not surprisingly, Wright believes any CIO who hasn't taken a hard look at cloud computing should. He suggests following the example of ESPN's Davis and talking to other IT execs who have used SaaS products to find out what challenges have arisen for them. He also strongly urges CIOs to shift their focus from infrastructure and application management to future needs and evolving business strategy.

Wright believes that all CIOs will eventually come to the same conclusion he has: that by freeing themselves from the shackles of data center management and staff oversight, they'll find themselves spending a lot more time on automation and business process enablement.


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