How cloud can usher in a new level of federal innovation

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Editor’s Note: This article was written by FedScoop for Salesforce.

Dave Rey is ready to help the government adapt to the cloud.

Rey, Salesforce’s executive vice president of North America public sector, has seen a shift over the past two years in the federal government when it comes to cloud computing. But he’s ready to help every agency harness what’s possible with Salesforce’s cloud offerings.

There are many advantages to the cloud, whether it’s the cost savings, the streamlining of business processes or the ability to work on anything at any time on any given device. However, Rey said it’s the combination of these things that leads to the innovations we are seeing on the federal level.

“It’s the innovation part that’s driving agencies and the fact they feel that they can do that in an appropriate way,” Rey said. “I feel that they’re looking at the substantial cost savings they are going to be able to realize; retiring hundreds of applications. They’re also getting rid of the acquisition process and the servers for all of those products. Not only are they retiring hardware, they are getting better and more efficient applications. It’s trust and I think they are feeling very comfortable with Salesforce.”

One of these efficient applications will soon launch under the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

For decades, customs agents would spend most of their day filling out clipboards full of documents that allowed shipping containers into the country. After spending six hours going through delivery manifests, the agent heads to a secure workstation to input all of the information they collected by hand.

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The process bottlenecks goods making their way into the country — and is subject to human error.

Realizing that, Salesforce helped APHIS consolidate the process into a smartphone app. Now, agents will be able to use their phones to scan barcodes located on containers after they’ve been inspected, clearing them faster than before. On the other end, foreign farm partners can apply for their required permits and licensing, as well as track their products from shipping container to shelf.

Under this system, Rey and Salesforce completely remove the stovepiped processes that come with the current system. That process flattening is something Salesforce prides itself on when it comes to its federal clients.

“You’re going to see a lot of older systems retired that are in stovepipes today,” Rey said. “Everything from health care registration to looking at proposed legislation to applying for licensing and permitting, we’re doing it.”

Rey has also made agencies realize that all of the cloud’s advantages can be capitalized upon quickly. While the acquisition process for other projects can often range from 12 to 18 month, Rey is seeing services built on Salesforce’s platform in weeks. That speed helps agencies ultimately adjust their culture when it comes to tackling new challenges that require a quick solution.

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Dave Rey, Salesforce’s executive vice president of North America public sector

“You need to refactor your thought process,” Rey said. “They need to be thinking really idea-to-application. We are working with agencies that have our platform, they have a license and they are developing applications as fast as they can come up with them. Literally, they have brought some system integrators in, some people are getting trained to build the applications, and they are seeing the results in weeks. They have to make sure people can act that fast.”

So whether it’s back office applications, systems for internal processes or new citizen-facing services, Rey tells agencies his platform can quickly and easily fit the mission, even if Salesforce needs to be integrated with other enterprise resource planning software.

“A customer can come in, whether it’s a two-person mom-and-pop shop or the USDA, and they don’t have to worry about scalability and all the things that they would have to traditionally worry about,” he said. “Every with the biggest firms today, in an on-premise environment, they have to deal with those issues, and it’s eliminated with us. I can go from idea to application at a much different pace than I could before.”

That pace is something Rey has seen change over his 30 years in public service. He has seen enterprise technology move from client/server to the Internet to this immersive, connected world that pervades every aspect of our lives. If the greater public can adapt to all of the possibilities the cloud brings us, the government should be at the forefront of innovation when it comes to what is possible with cloud.

“We don’t think twice about checking our bank account or using our local sports team app and going on our iTunes account,” Rey said. “We are using the cloud every day in normal transactions. The government is much more comfortable now that this is standard. Buying a room full of servers and software that lives in perpetuity and that you are paying maintenance on is no longer the way to go.”

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