Cloud Adoption Strategy: 2023 Update

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  1. Executive Summary
  2. Achieving Business Value
  3. Reducing Technical Debt
  4. How Cloud can help Remediate Technical Debt and Deliver Business Value
  5. Principles
  6. Conclusion

1. Executive Summary

In 2018, the GC renewed its cloud adoption strategy in response to the introduction of the Cloud First policy requirement. Since that time departments and agencies have grown their use of cloud.

  • As legacy data centres are closed, departments can migrate their applications to Enterprise Data Centres (EDC) or modernize their applications using public cloud services.
  • Departments and agencies also turned to cloud services during the pandemic to provide rapid, secure, and stable access to new digital services.

The cloud first policy requirement was meant to challenge departmental CIOs to consider cloud as their preferred delivery model for IT. Departments and agencies responded and it has become clear that ‘cloud first’ does not mean ‘cloud at all costs’. While Cloud remains a preferred choice for new applications, the decisions are more complex for existing applications.

In evolving to the principle of cloud smart, the GC will rationalize application portfolios and align to the most appropriate hosting model. This strategy will help departments navigate modernization decisions while also addressing challenges they are experiencing.

When formulating this strategy, the CIO and CFO community was consulted. That community has shared their experiences with using cloud and two themes emerged:

  • Above all, cloud provides agility and rapid deployment of capability/services. Whatever structures or strategic changes the GC makes, the agility of cloud must be maintained.
  • Cloud technology alone does not yield the benefits of agility. Roles and responsibilities, governance, methods, skills, finances, and culture must shift to full yield the agility of cloud services.
This strategy aims to explain how the GC will optimize its use of cloud to maximize business value, to reduce our accumulated technical debt and to continue to evolve the service-focused culture of the GC.

2. Achieving Business Value

In departments and agencies, IT organizations deliver technology that will improve the organization’s service delivery, program delivery, and overall efficiency. Program and Service organizations within those same Departments and Agencies have experienced significant shifts in expectations for policy implementation and service delivery.

In a digital world, rarely is a policy change implemented without the expectation of rapid delivery of technology to enable it. CIOs, and by extension IT organizations, are under increasing pressure to deliver business value with speed while improving stability, quality, and security. Business value, generically, can be articulated as:

  • Greater agility – the ability to incrementally improve applications with speed while maintaining quality, security, and stability.
  • Relentless focus on service management and user experience.  
  • Automating processes allowing the refocusing of resources from administration to higher value roles.
  • Providing greater collection, higher quality, rapid assessment of data to inform policy decisions.
  • Ability to pivot as technology and user expectation continue to shift.
  • Contributing to overall government Sustainable Development objectives by providing highly-efficient enterprise-scale infrastructure that reduce gas emissions and promote the greening of government.

In consultations with the CIO community, delivering higher business value was emphasized as a priority for their organization. Program Leads are becoming increasingly aware of how technology can transform their operations and service delivery. Secure cloud platforms can be used to bridge these needs by enabling programs can build solutions on platforms governed by IT organizations.

3. Reducing Technical Debt

During the early stages of the pandemic, new programs and services had to be rapidly deployed and new policy directions were created. Behind the delivery of each new service was technology. Behind every new policy was data collection and analysis. Modern delivery of technology is expected to respond rapidly to change while improving or maintaining security and stability. When existing technology cannot scale to meet these new needs or cannot quickly pivot to meet changing requirements, the accumulated technical debt of our systems is exposed.

Remediating technical debt is not a one-time activity. Remediating technical debt must be viewed and funded as a continuous activity. Simply replacing an aging technology with a newer like-for-like replacement will not break the debt cycle. Instead, new technologies, such as cloud, must be implemented in a manner that ensures the total scope and liability of technical debt is reduced with time.

4. How Cloud can help Remediate Technical Debt and Deliver Business Value

Now that the importance of remediating technical debt and increasing business value has been established, the question remains as to why cloud technology, and its associated methods, as a natural fit for these activities. Cloud’s unique properties allow for improved:

  • Speed to solution: coupled with modern delivery methods and automation, cloud allows for business solutions to be delivered faster than traditional service models.
  • Innovation: cloud service providers spend billions annually to develop new services and features without the need for large capital investments by the GC.
  • Reduction of future of technical debt liabilities: by using commercial cloud services, the GC’s scope of responsibility to maintain and replace (evergreen) technology is reduced.
  • Sustainability: cloud providers have made commitments to reduce carbon foot prints and offers the GC tools and features to create more sustainable digital services.
  • Skills and talent: new computer science and engineering graduates are skilled in cloud technologies. Not adopting cloud technology puts the GC at risk of having a workforce whose skills have diverged from those generally available in the market.
  • Experimentation: due to its on-demand pricing model, the cost of experimentation using cloud is low. Experiments can be used to quickly verify or reject hypotheses through learning leading to better informed, evidence-based, decisions.
  • Security: cloud providers are able to learn from threats and incidents directed at one customer and apply those learnings as preventative controls across all of its other customers.
  • Scalability: to sudden or short-term demands allowing for just in time program delivery and cost-effective response to business lines that only operate for a fixed period each year avoiding the need to over-provision IT capabilities

5. Principles

As a result, the GC has evolved its Cloud Adoption Principles to further help align decisions and planning to the core outcomes desired by this strategy.

Principle Description
1. Cloud Smart

The GC will rationalize application portfolios and align to the most appropriate hosting model.

2. Value First

The adoption of cloud will be used to reduce time-to-deliver, increase agility and maximize business value while mapping the business benefits of application modernization against the effort required to modernize.

3. Cloud Security

In order to move towards a more scalable secure cloud connectivity model, GC will migrate applications, and infrastructure, toward zero-trust architectures (ZTA) using an enterprise approach. In addition, GC will use cloud service providers and framework agreements to meet privacy and security requirements including data residency and sovereignty.

4. Incentivize Cloud

The financial model will incentivize the continuous optimization of cloud consumption and provide agility to pivot to new technology choices.

5. Move & Continuously Improve

Modernization of applications will include adopting higher up–the-stack technologies such as PaaS, SaaS, serverless, and containers. Prioritizing “buy before build” and limiting “lift-and-shift”.

6. Invest in Our Talent

We will invest in in-house teams by reskilling and hiring new resources to sustain delivery, remediate technical debt, and create modernization capacity.

7. Deliver with Agility

DevSecOps and product management will be used to deliver IT services with the agility required to keep our systems aligned to the pace of changing policies, programs, and user expectations.

6. Conclusion

GC organizations are increasingly leveraging cloud computing to seize the potential benefits of delivering more agile, flexible and cost-effective IT services.

While the government is still in the early stages of its adoption of cloud it continues to make improvements to polices and tools to support organizations with secure cloud adoption, processes and best practices. This evolution of the GC Cloud Strategy demonstrates this through fidelity and continuous calibration as a key component of realizing Canada’s Digital Ambition.

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