Companies around the globe have turned to the latest technology to reduce overhead costs while helping employees work smarter and be more productive.
Leading these efforts for the federal government is the General Services Administration (GSA), which initiated a multiyear strategy to move core agency systems to the cloud, a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data, rather than rely on local servers or personal computers.
The GSA’s “Drive to the Cloud” initiative, allowing employees to work from any device, anywhere and at any time, was overseen by Chief Information Officer Sonny Hashmi, who understood the challenges and the technology and was instrumental in pushing the ambitious effort forward.
“Sonny is responsible for all of the visionary elements that went along with the transition to the cloud,” said Casey Coleman, GSA’s former chief information officer. “He has played a significant role in establishing a strategic vision for GSA’s information technology transformation.”
In 2011, when GSA employees were moved from legacy technology to Google Apps, it was the first time a government agency transferred basic email services to the cloud. Since then, GSA has added a cloud-based platform of collaboration and document management tools, allowing employees to share case files, manage projects, exchange ideas and locate experts instantaneously.
GSA, the agency that manages federal buildings and office space and acquires goods and services for the government, estimates the email and collaboration services migration will save the agency $15 million by 2016.
“Sonny not only fixes problems, but also provides newer and better solutions,” said GSA Administrator Daniel Tangherlini. “He is a leader in the best sense. He is all about the outcome and builds a team that shares that desire.”
The GSA, under Hashmi’s guidance, consolidated more than 1,700 legacy applications into about 100 cloud-based applications. The agency also established a rapid application development platform to automate business processes, go paperless and implement business applications.
Hashmi and his team helped establish a social network with more than 10,000 internal and external users and 1,000 active communities of interest. They completely reformed project management activities within GSA by leveraging cloud-based applications and enabled the GSA to save more than $1.5 million a year by migrating a high-volume call center to the cloud in less than six months.
In addition, Hashmi directed the creation of an application to track IT spending, allowing the agency to identify more than $1 million in cost avoidance and savings in the first 30 days of deployment.
GSA’s work in the shared-service cloud application model, mobile computing and social apps has had the added benefit of serving as a template for other federal agencies to adopt cloud computing as a viable and cost-effective option for their business IT environments.
Based on the blueprint GSA created, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Interior, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Food and Drug Administration and the Executive Office of the President adopted cloud services.
“By sharing our strategy and hands-on expertise, these agencies have been able to benefit from our lessons, as well as save significant taxpayer dollars by reusing GSA’s cloud security framework and certifications,” said Hashmi.
Moreover, this framework formed the basis of the Federal Risk Assessment and Management program (FedRAMP) that is standardizing cloud security across the federal government, and setting a high bar for cybersecurity posture for the entire cloud computing industry.
“Sonny understands the difference that technology can make for government and brings information technology initiatives to the forefront of business priority discussions,” said Cheryl Ward, a GSA supervisory information technology specialist.
Tangherlini said Hashmi has become “the government-wide leader in convincing the federal government to move to the cloud.”
Hashmi, who joined the GSA in January 2011 as the executive in charge of its cloud computing program, said he is constantly looking for new technology to improve government efficiency and performance. He noted that information technology improvements, including the migration to the cloud, are not simply projects, but a business strategy.
“More and more IT will support government, but it is also what holds it together. We must find ways to harness data to meet the needs of our citizens with bigger and faster performance,” said Hashmi. “I really believe I can make a difference in their lives by bringing IT to the forefront.”