Montana skips ‘cloud-first’ for ‘cloud-smart’ approach

Many government enterprises today bill themselves as “cloud-first,” meaning that cloud platforms are poised as the default solution for every challenge being addressed. Montana state government, which like many state governments is shifting away from its legacy infrastructure, is taking a more temperate stance.

Montana Chief Information Officer Tim Bottenfield, who says he sees other states becoming “cloud-first,” run at odds with state’s agenda.

“Montana was never in that situation,” Bottenfield tells StateScoop in a video interview. “We have even to this day, too, really stellar and state of the art data centers. In the early years of those data centers, which goes back seven or eight years, there was really almost a no-cloud stance. We’ve certainly morphed out of that now.”

But rather than always go to the cloud first, Bottenfield says he wants to keep the state’s options flexible.

“We want to be cloud smart,” he says. “We know there’s applications and services being offered out there that the agencies really need and maybe we can’t provide all the components of that. So anything that comes through central IT and working with the agencies especially we’ll take a look at it in several different categories.”

Those categories, he said, are fiscal responsibility, technological feasibility, and security. With those things in mind, then the state considers the cloud and other options.

“Are they going to really provide everything that an agency needs?” he says.

Montana’s strategy echoes activity in Washington. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget in June released its cloud policy, called Cloud Smart, aiming to help government agencies “fully actualize the promise and potential of cloud-based technologies while ensuring thoughtful execution that incorporates practical realities.”

Bottenfield on his top priorities as CIO:

“This is what my team has been charged with focusing on. First of all, fiscal responsibility. We want to make sure that we spend smart.”

Bottenfield on customer relationship management:

“We talk about customer relationship management, but is it just customer relationship management? Is it business relationship management, is it partner relationship management? Or really is it all of that? ”

Bottenfield on cybersecurity:

“It’s a huge focus for all of us, really — a fundamental requirement to make sure that we protect the citizens’ data and make our networks strong and robust and very secure.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ midyear conference in National Harbor, Maryland, in May 2019.