What Local Governments Need to Know About Moving to the Cloud

The public sector is increasingly adopting cloud computing technology, after years of lagging behind the private sector.

On the U.S. federal level, the Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017 was signed in December, and the Department of Defense and FBI are among the agencies undergoing major moves to the cloud this year.

At the state level, cloud-first policies are now “either formal, informal or in development” in more than 70 percent of states, according to the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). And as a new article in Government Technology magazine states, a “growing number of local governments” are also making major moves to the cloud.

This leaves two big questions for local governments’ HR departments that still rely on on-premise technology:

  • Should you follow the trend and adopt cloud technology, too?
  • If you decide to adopt cloud technology, what should you do?

In this post, we’ll help you answer these questions by examining the benefits and challenges of moving to the cloud, as well offer some keys for success.

The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud for Public Employers’ HR Departments

HR is the most common buyer of cloud services aside from IT, according to a CDWG study of IT professionals with direct involvement in their organization’s cloud strategy.

According to an Oracle white paper, the primary reasons most buyers have purchased cloud technology are to reduce costs, improve agility and improve resource utilization. But there are some specific benefits for HR organization to be aware of, including:

  • You can shrink the internal footprint of technology you have to manage. If you’re outsourcing the hosting of an application, it reduces your IT needs and budget, as well as your server needs.
  • Avoid having to perform upgrades of on-premise systems. Legacy systems are often outdated, which can cause integrations to break down and other problems. Moving to the cloud enables you to modernize your technology more quickly and easily, and avoid costly and time-intensive upgrades of your on-premise systems.
  • Stay up-to-date. To remain competitive, quality cloud technology vendors regularly update their technologies.
  • Improved recruiting. People, especially younger talent, want to use new technology in their jobs, not legacy technology. Having experience with cloud tools makes them more marketable for future roles that may require experience with particular tools.

The Challenges of Moving to the Cloud for Public Employers’ HR Departments

As another Government Technology article noted, “Technology and people are the two important challenges for the city and county authorities with regard to cloud adoption.” Let’s take a closer look at each.


Technological challenges occur in two areas: migration/integration and with the cloud solutions themselves.

According to the CDWG study, 56.3 percent of state and local government respondents believe that migration and integration with other resources are the top government cloud deployment challenges.

“It’s not just flipping a switch, particularly when you’re looking at the SaaS [software-as-a-service] side of things,” Massachusetts state CIO Bill Oates told Government Technology.

The CDWG study found that initial cloud implementation has taken state and local governments an average of 15 weeks to complete, while subsequent implementations took only 11 weeks, on average.

“You find a lot of dependencies that people have built in over the years, and they’re not always well-documented,” Department of Justice CIO Joseph Klimavicz told Hewlett Packard Enterprise.  “So you end up with a few glitches along the way.”

Choosing the right cloud solution is also a key challenge. According to the CDWG study, 31 percent of state and local governments identified security as the single largest source of problems with cloud solutions.

“There are cloud providers that step up to the plate and can provide the level of security necessary to make us all comfortable with implementing these solutions, and there are likely others that aren’t as confident,” Oates said. “If you’re going to do this, security needs to be of the highest importance, and your selection of product, partner and migration plans needs to be solid.”

Reliability is another concern: 76 percent of organizations say at least one cloud vendor has failed to meet their service level agreements. Plus, many cloud vendors aren’t set up to handle local government’s complex technology requirements.


Change isn’t easy, and switching to the cloud can be difficult for long-term employees especially.

A CenterServ article explains the issue well: “As new [cloud] technologies keep evolving, the staff has to quickly adapt themselves to these changes. Secondly, the culture and mindset of the people has to be changed as well. While some staff is apprehensive of losing their jobs, others feel insecure about hosting the data in the cloud. Certain employees are reluctant to learn new technologies as they feel the present situation is just fine.”

As the Hewlett Packard Enterprise report aptly put it, the biggest challenge could be to persuade longtime employees “to stop worrying and learn to love the cloud.”

“It’s not just legacy systems; it’s also legacy attitudes,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) CIO Zachary Goldstein said.


3 Keys to Successful Cloud Adoption for Public Employers’ HR Departments

To achieve the benefits of the cloud and mitigate the challenges, follow these recommendations for successful cloud adoption:

  1. Put someone in charge of the overall cloud initiative. Public sector HR departments often have several silos, and it’s difficult to successfully make a major change such as moving to the cloud if there’s no clear leader.
  2. Don’t just force cloud technology down employees’ throats. Explain the purpose and benefits. The right cloud technology solution should help people see the value.
  3. Work with a vendor with experience helping public organizations move from on-premise systems to the cloud. The vendor should have the flexibility to meet your technical requirements and offer high-touch customer service to quickly and effectively help your organization and your employees when questions and problems crop up.
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