AWS Public Sector Blog

It Starts with Leadership: Insights from AWS Partners, Customers, & Industry Experts

Listen now on SoundCloud: AWS Public Sector Podcast: Ep. 7. It starts with leadership | On digital transformation [9:18]

Members of our AWS Partner Network, customers, and industry experts were recently featured on a special broadcast of Government Matters, a program centered on information and analysis covering technology, security, defense, management, industry, and the workforce.

Here are some key takeaways from cloud leaders who joined the show.

In the first of a multi-part series, host Francis Rose welcomes Laverne Council, former CIO of Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Managing Principal of Enterprise Technology Strategy and Innovation at Grant Thornton, as well as Adelaide O’Brien, Research Director of IDC Government Digital Transformation Strategies. We capture their conversation in the accompanying podcast, as well as below.

Digital transformation begins with a leadership transformation, according to Adelaide. It’s about changing the focus of how business is conducted. The cloud model is the first big technology transition that’s required leadership buy-in from outside of the technology office, she says. It’s also about culture change, and a growing partnership between the CIO and the rest of the agency, according to Laverne.

“[Cloud is] one of the first major technologies that’s actually changed government… it’s actually bigger than a technology. [T]he leadership and culture have to change from one of asset management to IT and CIOs understanding what the outcomes of the agency mission are.”  – Adelaide O’Brien, Research Director of IDC Government Digital Transformation Strategies

When it comes to a cloud transformation, a balance between economy and agility is key, Laverne explains. You need to offset costs in a fungible way, but you can’t compromise having the right security controls. It’s the CIO’s role to constantly assess risk versus value. They must focus on trying to get as much as possible for the dollars they have, to get as much agility as they need – particularly when working with a third-party.

Safeguards are also critical for future-proofing your cloud decisions, according to Adelaide. An organization should consider whether investing in R&D, innovative technologies, cognitive computing, or smart solutions, and also think about how quickly these can get through FedRAMP. Management should examine how it’s incorporating both commercial technologies, and commercial best practices.

With cloud’s growth in government comes a greater emphasis on cybersecurity and risk management.

The show dives further into the landscape for cybersecurity, and how this is changing for agencies. In the next segment, John Wood, Chairman and CEO of Telos Corporation, presses the urgency of multifactor authentication. He then goes on to describe the NIST cybersecurity framework as a common language and set of controls.

Sri Vasireddy, President of Rean Cloud, then discusses DevOps. He defines it as a culture of continuous customer-centric innovation happening in small batches, with constant feedback. He shares his take on how cloud providers have managed to solve for the ‘ilities – reliability, scalability, and so forth – but characterizes compliance as a bottleneck, given the difficulty in automating it.

The show’s final interview is with Dede Dascalu, CEO of Stratus Solutions. Dede speaks to cloud governance, which he says should be underpinned by a strong cloud infrastructure. He also raises the concept of cloud-at-scale, describing it as the point at which an organization’s needs have reached the level where it can grow and shift its mission.

Stay plugged in for upcoming podcast episodes and webinars on digital transformation, featuring more insight from AWS partners, customers, and experts.

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the AWS Public Sector blog team writes for the government, education, and nonprofit sector around the globe. Learn more about AWS for the public sector by visiting our website (, or following us on Twitter (@AWS_gov, @AWS_edu, and @AWS_Nonprofits).