Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Microsoft Navy Marine Corps Symposium 2012 hosted in Redmond, Washington, along with my colleagues from AvePoint Public Sector. The conference was a two-day “deep dive,” providing an opportunity for Microsoft executives, Navy and Marine Corps leadership, and key Microsoft partners to engage in candid discussions and to exchange ideas, challenges, solutions and potential best practices for sharing information securely, accessing information from any device and any location, and many more capabilities necessary in today's complex information environment. Throughout all of the keynotes, briefings, and technical working group sessions, a key theme emerged, “How do we reduce costs while balancing the explosion of data and security requirements?”
In 2012 and for the foreseeable future, government agencies are facing dramatic cuts in their budgets, while at the same time they are being held to as a high a standard as ever for performance and service. According to keynote speaker, Terry Halvorsen, Chief Information Officer, Department of the Navy, the next efficiencies that will be asked from the CIO community will be to determine how agencies can leverage their IT investments to reduce the costs in other areas of the business. The challenge posed by Mr. Halvorsen at the commencement of the conference was, “How do we get the best value out of the Systems that we already own today?” Critical solutions posed by industry experts and acknowledged by government leadership include governance and compliance, expansion of inter- and intra-agency collaboration, and the move to the cloud.
At first glance, it might seem very difficult to require highly de-centralized government agencies, like the Navy and Marine Corps, to improve security, compliance, and interoperability while eliminating redundancy and waste. However, agencies should conduct open and rational discussions about what they can reasonably protect. According to Mr. Halvorsen, “We may need to have different tiers of data where we can take risks.” The “right level” of governance will empower agencies to eliminate some levels of layers and duplication without moving to completely centralized systems.
Curt Kolcun, Vice President, US Public Sector, Microsoft further identified transformational trends in IT to include the explosion of data, ubiquitous connectivity, and collaboration tools that will allow systems to be effective even when they are not connected. These trends were echoed throughout the conference as high priorities with many Navy and Marine Corps IT professionals identifying their concerns with limited bandwidth and inconsistent connectivity for some of their remote locations.
Solutions posed by Microsoft and its partners like AvePoint include continued investments in flagship technologies such as Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint, and Windows Azure, as well as the unique Microsoft play of providing lower cost cloud-based and hybrid-cloud alternatives to government customers. Perhaps more so than any other leading IT provider in the government space, Microsoft has truly recognized that not all IT systems are “cloud ready” and not all information can, should, or ever may be stored by the government in a commercial cloud. By developing centralized standards for collaboration solutions, whether their environments are on premise or in the cloud, agencies can assure that they are achieving their mission and can build metrics to continually measure, adjust, and improve their performance.
Microsoft SharePoint 2010 provides a key example of an enterprise-ready technology that transcends these challenges and allows government and other enterprise customers to surpass these limitations. Leadership across the Navy and Marine Corps are striving to build a “best practices approach” to managing compliance across their SharePoint environments, recognizing that they may be centralized, de-centralized, or hybrid (both in the cloud and on premise.) This will ensure standardization and inter-operability. This standardization will assist these agencies in mitigating risk and ensuring that the field maintains tactical readiness and that the information required across the agency is always available and discoverable. Further, understanding how implementation of policy can also achieve security, compliance, will potentially allow agencies to defray (and reduce) costs for IT implementations. Thus, SharePoint governance becomes an overall cost savings to the agency.
SharePoint governance and compliance framework technologies from AvePoint provide flexible options for government agencies to allow them to leverage the latest collaboration technologies and to make conscious decisions about which mission critical systems and what kind of information should be managed from what kind of device or storage mechanism. Or more simply put: The right tool for the right job.
In closing his remarks, Brigadier General Kevin Nally, United States Marine Corps, reminded all conference participants, government and industry alike, that one of the best investments we can make in ensuring a highly successful IT environment today and in the future is to maintain our commitment to hiring returning soldiers and wounded warriors. We need look no further for an extremely qualified and dedicated employee candidate pool. The symposium was a great success and the beginning of a very meaningful dialogue that will undoubtedly lead to more questions and opportunities for collaboration. We at AvePoint look forward to the ongoing conversation.
Did you attend the Microsoft Navy Marine Corps Symposium? What were your thoughts on the event? Let us know in the comments below!