Posted: 26 May 2022 7 min. read

How can government cloud migrators wade through the talent uncertainty?

A blog post by Meghan Sullivan, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Malcolm Jackson, Specialist Executive, Deloitte Consulting LLP,  Joe Mariani, Research Manager, Deloitte Services LP, Pankaj Kamleshkumar Kishnani, Researcher, Deloitte Services LP 


The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated government organizations’ adoption of cloud and facilitated the flexibility and scalability governments needed to meet the urgent challenges of the pandemic. These investments have rapidly introduced the many benefits cloud can offer to government organizations that were once hesitant to leverage cloud, leaving them with the decision of how best to use cloud to accomplish their mission.

Our latest Deloitte Insights report, Don’t just adopt cloud computing, adapt to it, cites that 70% of state and local government executives prefer the cloud environment for hosting citizen and mission data.[1] Sixty percent of state CIOs aim to leverage cloud by expanding their managed services model over the next three years.[2]

But to fully adapt to a cloud-first culture, government CIOs and technical leaders must address a talent gap—a reality of any technology modernization. As agencies shift to how cloud is most effectively used, they must also prioritize attracting new talent, reskilling existing workers, and retaining hired talent to get the most out of cloud.

Cloud helped mitigate a global health crisis, but what’s next?

Everything changed when the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to work remotely. To keep their biggest asset—people—safe, organizations were quick to adopt remote working protocols and leveraged cloud technology to combat the unprecedented challenges the pandemic introduced to their organizations. While many government organizations had previously invested in cloud, those investments were often piecemeal. The past two years rapidly accelerated adoption and forced many agencies to adopt cloud at scale to meet the flexibility of demand from the pandemic.

Additionally, cloud has helped organizations to not only continue business during COVID-19 but also create tools to combat the virus itself. The cloud-based National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) platform helped set up an extensive database with more than 10 billion rows within weeks.[3] Government researchers and commercial firms could exchange ideas, data, and observations that helped identify possible treatments.

While these advancements are indeed impressive, to fully harness the brilliance of cloud in the long term, having an updated technical inventory is not enough. A workforce with cloud fluency that extends beyond the IT department and with a virtual mindset is imperative to success.

When technology needs are evolving, how can talent strategy be business-as-usual?

Technology modernization requires human intelligence, because even the best technology is useless without the right people involved. Now that many organizations have transitioned from legacy systems to cloud in record time, they’re now facing talent gaps that make the widespread adoption of cloud within an organization more challenging:

1. Skill shortage: To achieve cloud maturity, agencies need cloud-fluent people. Training employees in software-as-a-service and as managed service providers is important, but digital transformation often transcends the IT department. For instance, it’s equally important to build basic cloud fluency in the financial management staff who handle budget, contracts, and operational processes. This way, they can prevent unnecessary spending on physical assets if cloud can serve as a cheaper and more efficient alternative.

2. Competitive talent landscape: Even if the public sector succeeds in training or attracting the talent needed, they are competing with the commercial sector for their cloud talent, such as IT and professional services (see figure below). Therefore, government could easily find its employees tempted to leave the public sector for higher salaries and better growth opportunities in commercial industries.

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Put challenges at a disadvantage

Adapting the technology, processes, and structure of any organization can be difficult, and talent challenges can only exacerbate that. But building strategies that put an organization’s people at the center can help mitigate those challenges:

1. Focus on culture: Organizations that invest in education and development have 30% to 50% higher retention rates than their peers.[4] Creating career pathways for talent with cloud skills can ensure that workers have the opportunity to grow and find new challenges without having to leave the organization.

2. Embed cloud in strategy: Cloud, at its core, is a team sport. So, eliminate the silos. Help talent strategists understand the agency’s digital transformation vision so that when they recruit talent, they fully understand who should be on their cloud-ecosystem team. This also applies to stakeholders, such as third-party technical providers. And by assembling the talent pool through a strategic collaboration, cloud ecosystem not only optimizes but boosts security.

Leading the way forward

Government leaders are strategizing where and how to make the best use of cloud, which is an exciting time for organizations as cloud flexibility and scalability is well suited for many of government’s toughest challenges. But like every technical modernization, an organization’s people are the key to its success. Organizations must not only increase their technical inventory, but also adapt their culture in parallel. By doing so, they can ensure that the best services reach citizens not just today, but for years to come.

[1] Maximus, FedRamp survey results report, accessed December 16, 2021.

[2] NASCIO, Grant Thornton LLP, and CompTIA, The agile state of CIO: Leading in a time of uncertainty—2020 State CIO Survey, accessed December 16, 2021.

[3] NNE-CTR, “What is N3C?” accessed December 16, 2021.

[4] Josh Bersin, “Becoming irresistible: A new model for employee engagement,” Deloitte Review 16, January 27, 2015.

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Meghan Sullivan

Meghan Sullivan

Principal | Government & Public Services

Meghan Sullivan is a Principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Government & Public Services practice and serves as Deloitte’s Cloud Strategic Growth leader. Meghan works alongside our technical leaders and strategic partners to deliver cloud solutions that address our clients’ unique business needs, with a focus on implementation and future innovation capabilities. Her extensive industry knowledge and technical expertise allows her to work with government clients to develop solutions that meet their business objectives, as well as the needs of their constituents.

Malcolm Jackson

Malcolm Jackson

Specialist Executive, Core Business Operations | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Malcolm is a Deloitte specialist executive in Core Business Operations focused on strengthening executive relationships across the federal agencies that have a need for business transformation, cloud adaption, cyber resilience, and AI. Malcolm possesses deep experience leading transformative IT programs and partnering with federal agencies to design and implement strategies to improve IT performance and agility, reduce operating costs, and deliver more innovative capabilities to the mission faster. Prior to joining Deloitte, Malcolm held IT leadership roles within the federal and commercial sectors. He also served the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2010 to 2013 in dual roles: Assistant Administrator for the Office of Environmental Information, running the Toxic Release Inventory Program (TRI) and as the Chief Information Officer (CIO). During his tenure, he accelerated EPA's cloud migration, implemented a new mobile strategy, upgraded infrastructure, and reduced IT operating costs.

Joe Mariani

Joe Mariani

Senior manager | Deloitte Consulting LLP

Joe Mariani is a senior research manager with Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights. His research focuses on innovation and technology adoption for both national security organizations and commercial businesses. His previous work includes experience as a consultant to the defense and intelligence industries, high school science teacher, and Marine Corps intelligence officer.