Industry voice: Public authorities need to assess their individual demands in migrating to the cloud, and find a partner who can be flexible in providing expertise, writes Gary Bell, executive director of Civica UK
Most digital leaders in the public sector are now ready to acknowledge the benefits of utilising cloud computing, but many are also struggling to make progress in turning it from an attractive idea to the reality for their organisations.
The desire for cloud adoption is there, but the barriers are still formidable, and public bodies need the right options for support – and the scope for a step-by-step approach – in breaking them down.
Two reports published in recent months have highlighted the slow progress. Eduserv’s study on cloud adoption by 100 local authorities in the UK showed that more than half did not have a cloud IT strategy. The majority still held data on premise, more than a quarter did not know where their data was stored, and the use of ‘shadow cloud’ was growing, with employees acting independently in using their own cloud solutions.
Analyst company TechMarketView has also identified a slow take-up. Its analysis of the cloud market for central government showed that just 2-3% of infrastructures spending has been ‘as a service’, and it has suggested that adoption has been even slower in local government.
Our conversations with public authorities have pointed to a handful of reasons. Many organisations lack the skills to identify and manage the move to the right cloud solution – in areas such as migrating the data and integrating cloud platforms with legacy IT systems – while they have to devote their in-house resources to the day-to-day operations of the IT estate. ‘Keeping the lights on’ is keeping a lot of IT teams at full stretch.
They are also short on the financial resources needed for a wholesale change; again, finding that urgent short term demands often win over the potential for spending with long term returns.
Some feel uncertain about what approach to cloud will work for them and of their priorities in choosing a partner. In addition, there are lingering worries about storing data off-premises, exacerbated over the past year by the legal issues around personal data in overseas data centres.
These are understandable reasons for the slow progress, but they cannot be allowed to hold things back any longer. Cloud platforms provide a core element of a digital transformation strategy, enabling organisations to work more flexibly and cost-effectively, and laying the ground for new ways of working and long term savings.
Confidence and understanding
For public authorities, a big step towards breaking down the barriers is in finding the right partner to provide supporting expertise, and one that will help them move forward with confidence and as well as have a solid understanding and experience of the very specific challenges faced by local authorities.
Organisations have often seen selecting suppliers as a choice between two options. There are the long term deals, running up to 10 years, in which a big supplier takes over the running of services in a shift to the cloud; often with heavy financial commitments that limit the flexibility to change plans and respond to new demands. Alternatively, it can pull together deals with an array of specialist suppliers for individual services, creating a level of complexity that can be very difficult to manage.
There is a more flexible option when you consider a supplier that can help an organisation take small or large steps towards adopting cloud, one that works in partnership, with flexible commercial terms as well as a breadth of expertise. This brings a major advantage of enabling IT leaders and their teams to understand what they need and move forward at a pace that best suits their knowledge, resources and priorities.
This type of approach is likely to begin with consultancy, then extend into providing a series of services to support the different stages involved in moving to the cloud. The journey can include software development, hardware procurement, asset management, building infrastructure and placing people on the ground to help deliver the different elements of a transformation.
A real technology partner can provide alternatives in terms of the shape of the overall solution, with the possibility of a hybrid in-house/cloud IT estate, integration with specialised applications, or maybe running on an alternative supplier’s platform. The key feature is that this type of supplier can give a public authority the opportunity to understand what it needs, size up the options, then make the choices that best suit those needs.
Choosing this route to the cloud can enable an authority to move forward with its transformation and, if necessary, hit the pause button to consider the next steps, accommodate new demands and assess new options. This all adds to the prospect of long term success, even when the political and financial demands on an authority create the need to change plans.
Civica has a wealth of experience in providing this type of support. It has the range of skills and specialities of an array of small suppliers, but within one company that can provide the depth of understanding and integration skills to make them work together. Civica services can be provided individually or as part of broad package to enable a transformation.
As a technology and business process partner, Civica offers that crucial support when moving forward in steps, helping customers to understand what they need before making a commitment to a platform, an application or an infrastructure in the cloud. The company has been doing just that with Luton Borough Council since establishing a partnership in 2009, helping it through a series of projects to create a more effective and citizen-friendly set of digital services.
Another project has involved working with Buckinghamshire County Council in the creation of a hybrid cloud for its data. Initially this project is targeting a 50/50 split between the council’s own servers and the cloud, but this will change over time to satisfy any changes in requirements for secure storage and flexibility.
This is one of the key elements of a broader programme in which Civica is supporting Buckinghamshire in the transformation of its operating models.
The company’s experience in such projects has produced a handful of key lessons for a successful migration to the cloud:
- Be clear on what you want to achieve, including specific business outcomes.
- Identify partners who can provide a range of capabilities, flexibility, a strong understanding of the market and solid experience in supporting moves to the cloud.
- Build a team of people with the backgrounds to provide collaboration across the organisation and with suppliers.
- Monitor projects to track their progress, report on outcomes and make a noise over the successes.
- Establish what has been achieved as ‘business as usual’ then move on to the next project.
Civica has the capabilities and experience to support these efforts, backed up by a remote, on-demand resources that can be used at times of stress. This complements one of the prime benefits of cloud in terms of enabling organisations to scale operations up or down as required without unnecessary costs.
All this can help public authorities break down the barriers to cloud adoption, giving them the confidence to move forward in their transformation programmes. Civica is ready to help them a step at a time, ensuring that they are on the route to success.
For further information on Civica’s cloud capabilities and how it is supporting authorities in their journey to the cloud, please email [email protected].