"The first thing I did was to get $100,000 from the Secretary of State's office to put my staff into classes," Aultman says. "I brought in consultants to teach them to program in a modern coding language."
He had his staff of 40 spend eight hours a day for five days learning object-oriented programming, primarily in the Microsoft .NET framework. After the week-long crash course, he had them spend half of their day for another six months getting their skills up to snuff.
"There were a whole bunch of nonbelievers," he says. "I heard every excuse under the sun. And I lost 15 to 20% of the staff to taking their retirement or moving to another agency because they couldn't or didn't want to learn what we had to learn. I told them you either learn or we don't need you."
Department of State Finds Agility in the Cloud
In the meantime, Aultman had been thinking about what needed to be done. He knew that to succeed in the tasks that had been set before him, he needed to take the Department of State into the cloud.
"I didn't have any intent when I got there to take them to the cloud," he notes, even though he had been responsible for bringing BizBanc into the cloud.
"My intent was to fix what was there. But the money situation, the coding situation, the whole cost of trying to fix what was there and do it in a timely fashion just did not allow me much choice. Looking at the money and the time and the talent, it seemed like a reasonable way to go. I knew how to do a cloud project. I'd done it before. I knew what it could save if done correctly and I knew it could not save anything if done incorrectly," Aultman says.
The more he looked at it, the more he knew taking Florida's applications to the cloud was the best choice. Government, he says, particularly Florida's government, takes a monolithic approach to software. It wants to plan the software, construct it and then maintain it like a concrete building.
"Software just doesn't work that way anymore," he says. "You need agility. You need the ability to change with the times as technology changes. You need a way to provide applications that are less monolithic and more product-like. But that's counter to what the state does. It creates applications that run for a very long time doing things that seemingly don't change. But the law changes practically at every session. The judges rule on various things that force change on the system. The laws for corporations changes. This happens very, very frequently. We need a way that applications can be changed without so much cost, without so much testing, without so much human input."