This interagency group wrote a guide to cloud adoption, and it’s just getting started

Chad Sheridan, CIO of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency, on what the Cloud Center of Excellence is up to next.
Chad Sheridan speaks at the Public Sector Innovation Summit. (FedScoop)

Chad Sheridan, CIO of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, gets really excited about instances of cross-government teamwork.

“I’ve always been one to collaborate across government,” he said in a recent interview with FedScoop. “I find a whole lot of energy in watching those ideas flow.”

It is this interest that drove Sheridan to soon take over leadership of the Cloud Center of Excellence, an interagency working group that offers advice on cloud adoption best practices. The group, created in January, has so far been led by outgoing Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray.

CCoE consists of over 140 participants representing 48 different agencies, Sheridan told FedScoop. It’s “hard” to maintain communication across a group of this size, but he views such collaboration as absolutely necessary to the success of cloud adoption. It’s a “stand on the shoulders of giants” kind of philosophy — in the era of cloud-first policy, agencies that have already experienced the highs (and lows) of moving to the cloud can use CCoE to direct those following in their footsteps away from common pitfalls.


“There’s no way we can afford to learn all the lessons ourselves,” he said. “We want to get away from the ‘everybody figuring it out for themselves.'”

At the end of August, CCoE released a draft of a guide known as CASTLE (short for Cloud Acquisition Professionals Cloud Adoption Survival Tips, Lessons, and Experiences) — a physical, 20,000-word expression of the group’s commitment to sharing best practices for cloud computing.

“The CASTLE Guide will support program managers (PMs), contracting officers (COs) and other stakeholders in federal acquisition planning for cloud computing services,” the guide begins. “A Guide that identifies, explains, and offers flexible paths to cloud acquisition and adoption can effectively help to reduce or remove these barriers and increase cloud deployment in the Federal Government. ”

In the wake of this release, FedScoop chatted with Sheridan about what’s next for CCoE.

CASTLE is just one “product” that CCoE is working on, Sheridan told FedScoop, but it’s been the most talked-about thus far. Other products include a guide on what cloud computing contracts should look like, one that defines personnel roles necessary for cloud adoption and more.


Sheridan said the group has lots of ideas for what to work on next, but as the soon-to-be leader he’s focused mainly on one thing: Collaborate more and collaborate better. His next steps, he explained, will be to make the work more visible so that any of the 140 participants (or even new ones) can arrive, quickly understand what work needs to be done and set about it. Currently the CCoE meets in groups in-person or over the phone a lot — Sheridan envisions a platform like GitHub, the popular developer collaboration tool, as a more streamlined solution.

The CASTLE guide is also a work in progress that could benefit from this kind of collaboration software.

“Individually we’re not going to be able to do everything the citizens are asking us to do,” he said. “But together… my job is to create the environment where that can happen.”

Sheridan confirmed that, despite myriad things an interagency group of CIOs, personnel from the office of the CIO and others could focus on, CCoE is committed solely to cloud adoption topics. It’s more than enough. “Appetite control is a continuing challenge,” he said.

CCoE plans to meet next Sept. 26 when, Sheridan admitted bashfully, there will be some kind of “passing the baton ceremony” to kick off his leadership.

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