The road to 2018: Michigan’s journey to the cloud

Government operations could look a lot different in Michigan by the end of 2018.

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget’s “stretch goal” is to make 85 percent of the state’s operations cloud-enabled within the next 2 1/2 years, said Jack Harris, the state’s director of enterprise architecture and network strategies.

“There’s a lot of aspects to our cloud strategy, which is what makes it exciting,” Harris told StateScoop at the National Association of State Technology Director’s Conference in Cincinnati in August.

The state retooled its contracting strategy to make room for cloud vendors, and to organize the rest of the state’s agencies around supporting cloud-enabled technology offerings, Harris said.

And even though the state is moving forward, Harris said the pace of adoption still needed to speed up.

“I’d say our feet are wet at this point,” Harris said. “We’re well past the knees, but how do we accelerate that growth? It’s a stretch goal, but we’re moving along pretty fast.”

The information technology operations in Michigan have been centralized since 2002, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that big changes like cloud computing are easy for the state. Even with centralization, the department still struggles with having a voice at the agency level, Harris said.

“Our greatest challenge is still having the credibility to get invited to the table with the executive branch agencies as they’re putting together their strategies and plans for their business IT needs,” Harris said. “We need to be able to effectively budget and protect what new technologies are coming down the road. Being able to work with the agencies on their strategic plans really helps us in that forward planning.”

As the state moves forward with its cloud goals, Harris also said the next disruptor for the state will probably center on mobility — something purely driven by citizen demand.

“I think that sort of goes hand in hand with cloud because we have so many new devices that we have to design our applications for,” Harris said. “Citizens are asking for access to state government using whatever they have at hand.”