Nobody can argue that the U.S. government couldn't benefit from some efficiency and productivity gains, and the websites and infrastructures that government agencies use to service taxpayers and employees alike need work. Microsoft's Government team recognizes this, and is working hard to provide cloud and general productivity solutions to help improve the government's digital presence.
Microsoft's position is clear:
With today’s technology, we can create an agile and cost-efficient development environment in which governments don’t have to recreate the wheel every time they launch a new website or introduce a new mobile service. Instead, they can take a layered approach in which components are reused by other government agencies.
A couple of examples:
• CMS-free code: Rather than building big blocks of code locked up in a content management system (CMS), websites can develop CMS-free code that’s open and transparent, and easily allows for updates—and then publish the code on GitHub so it’s available for reuse, as the federal government did when it built healthcare.gov. Not only does the lightweight design require fewer servers, but it’s faster to load on mobile devices. It’s also makes it easy for anyone without technical knowledge to update web pages.
• Infrastructure as code: Rather than manually configuring and deploying systems, applications, and middleware, applying the same steps every time new infrastructure is created, government developers can write scripts that automate these tasks. By automating processes that were once completed manually, “infrastructure as code” enables developers to accelerate software delivery by making it possible to replicate environments with speed, consistency, and very few errors. As Forrester Consulting put it in its recent thought leadership paper, “Automation takes confusion and error-prone manual processes out of the delivery life-cycle stages.”
Microsoft Azure plays an important role in helping government become more efficient, as does Microsoft's various development assets. Microsoft recognizes that government utilizes cross-platform solutions just as do private organizations, and so Windows, iOS, Android, and a variety of development platforms are all incorporated into the company's government resources.
Hopefully, the government's efforts to improve their technology, such as the U.S. Digital Service initiative, will succeed in bringing better service, more efficiency, and higher productivity to help our stretch our tax dollars. In the meantime, it's encouraging to note that Microsoft is on the case.