Technology trends and talkers point to the cloud, with its promise of not just a silver lining, but a whole bagful of benefits. The Governor’s Office is confident that promise can be fulfilled and has directed GTA to lead a cloud computing migration among Georgia’s state agencies. The effort took flight in 2022 with focus on three essential ingredients for its success: 1) transformation, 2) training of state IT staff, and 3) ongoing support.
Shifting from on-premises server services to cloud computing isn’t simply a change of venue for servers. Agencies recognize that in the cloud, they must shed some of their terrestrial ways. GTA collaborates with them to successfully transform not just their applications and systems, but their fundamental way of thinking about computing services.
The first phases of the transformation focused on migrations into Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. By late 2022, the number of transitioned applications had climbed above 50, with more queued to happen. Agencies including the Departments of Administrative Services, Corrections, Drivers Services, Natural Resources, Public Health and GTA have new cloud operations. And, by aggregating the state’s purchases of AWS offerings, GTA can offer discounted pricing for those services to Georgia government entities.
GTA also began to introduce options in the Microsoft Azure cloud. Several agencies are organizing migrations to Azure. Where GTA partnered with Accenture to help guide the initial wave of migrations to AWS, SDI Presence is the vendor providing expert migration management on the Azure side. Agencies will continue to be in migration mode through early summer 2023.
The state’s mainframe and applications running on it are also shifting to the AWS cloud. This migration will extend into 2023 and will decrease costs while also enabling continued mainframe services (an area where support staff are an increasingly rare breed as well).
IT operations broadly will look different post-migration. Functions like incident handling, networking, backups, and patching will all change. Support channels (e.g., service desk) will become more varied. Disaster recovery will take on a new cloud orientation and will provide more tailored options. All of this brings more flexibility and autonomy for agencies. It will also require some new skills.
You don't suddenly pilot the plane without having trained. IT teams, and business leaders to some degree, must prep and gear up. GTA helps state agencies secure that preparation, providing access to varied training options for cloud transformation.
In 2022 GTA established pathways to training for both Amazon Web Services and Azure cloud through an online training center. Called Cloud Campus, the training center is accessible via Microsoft Teams and makes available a wealth of self-guided training, ranging from overview to intensely technical. Courses are customized for agency roles ranging from IT staff (architects, system administrators, developers, and others) to business leads. Instructor-led training by AWS (and soon Microsoft Azure) is also publicized on Cloud Campus. Just like the self-study options, there's no charge to agencies for the live sessions.
AWS Immersion Days complement the Cloud Campus offerings. These are half-day and whole-day, live sessions led by an AWS technical expert. They’re hands-on workshops that can provide a general overview of AWS environments and services, or a deeper dive into topics like networking, databases, and more.
And, throughout the fall of 2022, twice-monthly lunch ‘n’ learns called Technically Speaking featured a GTA cloud expert exploring technical topics with agency IT staff who are directly involved in cloud transformation. Like the name suggests, these informal discussions got plenty technical, with as many as 40 or so IT folks at a time gathering around a virtual lunch table.
GTA anticipates augmenting its cloud training focus in the coming year by adding a program of flexible, ongoing training. GTA is working with the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) to explore TCSG’s potential development of weeks-long courses on cloud subjects. This addition would address cloud training as an ongoing exercise, not something accomplished once and then allowed to drift into the rearview.
Taken all together, it’s a rich collection of training options for agencies participating in the cloud transformation. It creates opportunities for significantly expanding the skillsets of agency IT professionals.
The job doesn’t end with transformation and training. Ongoing support is critical in new cloud environments and in a new computing model. GTA introduced new expert AWS operational support offerings from TekStream. Agencies can capitalize on TekStream’s input to supplement in-agency cloud capabilities where needed. For Azure cloud environments, operational support will be available from SDI Presence.
In tandem with its cloud transformation support provisions, GTA’s approach to customer relationship management also evolved. In late 2022, it established an internally staffed Customer Success Management organization. The team of approximately 15 Customer Success Managers (CSMs) took over December 1 from an Agency Relationship Management (ARM) team staffed by Capgemini. The CSMs are envisioned as the primary interface with agencies and entities, helping connect customers with GTA resources that can best meet customers’ technology needs. (GTA thanks the ARM team for its years of support of agencies.)
The new cloud-first approach has momentum, building confidence it will bring the benefits hoped for. That includes things agencies want like more flexibility and autonomy with their IT environments, increased reliability, access to a wider set of technology options, and greater control over their service consumption. These are some of the reasons the Governor’s Office identifies this work as high priority for the good health of state systems and data.
And even as cloud transformation took top billing in 2022, GTA’s technology services teams continued to maintain currency and make improvements in IT service areas spanning network, end user computing, print and mailroom/courier, storage and more. GTA also guided agencies through evaluations of Google Workspace (a suite of end-user messaging and productivity tools) and CoreView (an administration platform to help agencies better manage their Office 365 and Active Directory environments). That will open new technology service options for Georgia agencies in the coming year.
GTA Direct Services
The GTA Direct program provides access to a range of managed IT services for Georgia agencies, local governments, public and not-for-profit colleges and universities, and boards of education statewide. GTA qualifies the pool of vendors and provides governance over the service contracts, while agencies purchase the services directly from the providers and manage the vendor relationships themselves.
The program continued to provide an efficient procurement process allowing agencies to purchase IT services from GTA-qualified suppliers that understand regulatory requirements facing government entities.
Services Offered through GTA Direct
- Mobility devices and services
- Oracle products and services
- Hosted contact center
- Managed print