Careful management of subscriptions, licences and access is essential in getting the best value from cloud, writes Rhys Sharp, solution director at Rackspace
Any conversation about ‘smart sourcing’ digital capabilities is going to include how to make the best use of cloud services.
For any organisation it is key to strike the right balance between in-house services and systems, outsourcing, public and private cloud - retaining the agility to change the mixture in response to shifting demands.
Getting the best value from the cloud, whether through a fixed term contract, subscription or software-as-a-service (SaaS) deals is an intrinsic element of the whole; and this requires a new function and new skills within an IT team to make it possible.
Questions around how to achieve this arose during a UKA Live discussion in which I took part with Amit Patel, director of technology design and engineering at the British Heart Foundation, and Tony Summers, chief executive of Socitm Advisory. The answers pointed to the need for specific people in an organisation to take responsibility for understanding and managing the licensing and usage of cloud services.
A key point is that cloud is changing the nature of procurement, although the experience of the participants was that not all procurement specialists in the public sector have grasped the change.
Cloud services are developing rapidly and organisations need to be able to take advantage of new offerings, shifting a big element of IT services from capex to opex spending. But there are procurement teams that continue to see IT wholly in terms of capital spending and look for long term contracts that they believe offer good value, but which restrain the organisation’s ability to respond to change.
This needs correcting with an effort to educate people across the organisation on the spending models for cloud, leading to a shift in mindset. There could be problems on the way as the balance between opex and capex in an organisation can be influenced by a myriad of factors, but it needs an appreciation that cloud is meant to be a flexible service rather than a fixed asset.
It is part of an organisation thinking holistically about the systems and software it is using, and how far it can go in breaking away from the perpetual licensing model on which IT has traditionally operated. This in turn relates to a ‘cloud appropriate’ approach, turning to cloud services not simply because they are in the cloud, but because they offer the best solution for specific elements of the organisation’s digital requirements.
A big element of this therefore will be in managing the licensing and usage of likely multiple cloud services. One of the suggestions to emerge in UKAuthority’s 'soon to be published' research into smart sourcing is that there is a strong case for IT teams in public authorities to include a specialist who looks after the licensing of software systems on a daily basis, managing who has access to which services and subscriptions and whether this access should be open ended or for set periods.
With individual licencing this is inevitably becoming more complex as organisations move more of their employees onto cloud services. It may be relatively straightforward for big enterprise agreements such as those that often apply for Office 365, but will be less so for specialised cloud services.
On and off as needed
Another increasingly important aspect is knowing when to switch off access or terminate a service. This is particularly important for SaaS services, as they are more cost-effective if used only when they are really needed.
As you move to SaaS there should be someone in the organisation authorised to switch the service on and off. It is likely to be straightforward for switching on as users will ask for it; but more difficult to know when to switch off as they are less likely they will say it is no longer needed – and some will want to keep their access open to make things easier for themselves when they next need to use it.
Managing this effectively is a delicate task with the potential to cause some friction, but it has to be addressed to make the services fully cost-effective. Someone in the organisation has to own it, with all the relevant information on who can use which services and why, and the authority to switch on and off as appropriate. And there is a need for a mechanism to provide the controls.
There would be a cost to placing somebody in the role, but it could be funded in good time through the savings it provides.
This is going to be a challenge for many organisations, with our conversations suggesting that few have given it much thought so far, but it should emerge as an important element not just in the smarter use of cloud but in the whole smart sourcing approach to IT.
It is part of a landscape in which change is becoming the new normal, and authorities need people with special skills to manage that change.
You can watch the full UKA Live programme here: Outsource, insource or smart-source?
Thanks to research support from Rackspace, and following interviews across the public sector, UKAuthority's report on Smart Sourcing is almost ready. Register below to be one of the first to get the report: