Darin Powell, CGI Federal

Darin Powell


Federal agencies, not unlike the private sector, desire to modernize and secure their IT infrastructure, respond to customer needs faster, and become more scalable and resilient.  These are not easy things to do.

Metaphorically, it’s like running a marathon. Runners leave the starting line, follow the course up and down hills, drink at the water stations, smile as they hear cheers along the path and finally, cross the finish line. 

Preparing for the race

Before marathon runners experience any of that, however, they have to train and prepare. In this post, I’m going to talk about getting to the starting line for cloud migration. Without the proper preparation, you’ll likely drop out early, huffing and puffing. These steps do not guarantee success, but without them, you will surely fail.

So what does that preparation look like? It is, at its core, dedicating time to plan, gather and document business needs and requirements. For example, in one of my recent engagements, an agency had documented more than 500 business requirements in the contract. They had clearly put significant thought and planning into their requirements to act as a strong starting point.  When the time came, they confidently crossed the starting line (their run is still in progress, but I believe they will finish the race successfully).

Let me share with you some of the key steps in preparing for your metaphoric 26.2 mile run—migrating your infrastructure and applications to the cloud.

  • Secure executive sponsorship and product owner support for the cloud migration program.  Stakeholder management is key to the success of the migration.
  • Gather and document business requirements.
  • Document your as-is architecture and envision your to-be architecture—in detail.
  • Map your security architecture:  Determine your accreditation boundary and list your security requirements. (Expect to revise this list throughout the project).

Breaking down the steps

Step 1 – Secure executive sponsorship.  Any successful program requires executive sponsorship.   It helps to align organizational and transformational goals. The backing of top leaders helps build consensus and marshal the necessary resources.  Moving to the cloud is not only a technical shift, but also a cultural one.  Having agency leaders support the project and impress upon employees the necessity of adapting to new processes and structure is a key to success. A high-level advocate can also help push past obstacles. Our experience has shown us that the executive sponsor is necessary to enforce change management and, in most cases, use an escalated process to meet the desired timelines. Having the executive sponsor be a significant contributor and stakeholder also leads to timely decision making.  

Step 2 – Gather and document business requirements.  Taking the time up front to discuss, obtain and document the business requirements in a requirements document or traceability matrix is critical. Include end-user experience considerations, and add user functional requirements and enhancements to improve the result and increase stakeholder buy-in.  You have to understand what your objective is. Why are running this race at all? Building consensus about the goal and establishing a set of metrics to track progress is essential to crossing the finish line.

Step 3a – Document the architecture.  Ensure the agency or client has a current as-is architecture and to-be architecture (this will include the physical and logical architecture for both).  Nobody starts a marathon without knowing the location of the finish line and no long-distance runner I know wants to run more than 26.2 miles. 

Step 3b – Map your security architecture.  Unfortunately, most every day, we read about stolen data and cybercrime.  Make security a priority from the very start. This is not only a federal requirement, but also table stakes. This is why I list security architecture as Step 3b and not Step 4.  Step 3b has to run concurrently with 3a and with every step of the program.  
In future posts, I will talk about the actual race itself. For now, I wanted to identify what it takes to get to the starting line with a real chance to finish and finish strong.

For more on cloud migration, explore the cloud and hybrid IT section on CGI Federal's website.

About this author

Darin Powell, CGI Federal

Darin Powell


Darin Powell leads an operations team providing delivery of hybrid cloud solutions for large federal government agencies and departments. With over 25 years of federal experience supporting federal clients with their business, technology, cloud and operational challenges, Darin has provided the right solutions, staff and ...