The pandemic has changed expectations for public sector, and it requires a strong foundational infrastructure, writes Joseph Langford, chief technologist public sector for VMware
The experience of the Covid-19 lockdown has reset expectations of what we can do with digital technology in the public sector.
There has been a massive shift to remote working and a surge of innovation, triggering a belief that while these have come in response to an emergency, they should form the basis of a new approach in the long term. There has been a change in expectations with an even stronger emphasis on the importance of digital innovation.
It imposes a big change in the demands on ICT teams; but they can build on the foundations with the right partnerships in a robust combination of virtualisation and cloud services.
I was acutely aware of the demands of the lockdown in my role as chief digital and information officer to the police forces of Surrey and Sussex. Prior to the pandemic we could have about 45 people concurrently connected to the virtual private network, but on the day of lockdown it rose to 1,700 and by December was averaging 2,600. This came with a fourfold increase in service desk requests, imposing a serious strain on the support team.
Innovation was accelerated, risks were taken in launching some services, and people made immense efforts on an assumption of it being a short term demand. But this came with a dismantling of our change strategy and signs of burn-out within the teams.
Looking forward there is a need, common in the public sector, to maintain the momentum while resetting strategy, managing expectations and controlling the pace of change. We cannot continually keep up the pace of 2020.
It poses specific challenges for ICT leaders and their teams in maintaining the support for remote working and moving forward with digital strategies, but while keeping an eye on the wellbeing of staff. This all needs an infrastructure for remote working and to support the development of new services.
It also needs trust in the organisation’s services, teams and partners for its use of technology. As you start to open up your organisation there is a broad risk in not knowing who has access to the technology, data, information that you have distributed; and this requires trust in the infrastructure within that environment to allow you to control, measure, mitigate or at least minimise the impact when something does not go to plan.
This is where VMware can help, contributing to a digital foundation that covers a range of tools and applications and takes in hybrid cloud services to meet the diverse needs of a distributed workforce.
It has VMware Cloud Foundation, a hybrid cloud platform for managing virtual machines and orchestrating containers, built on full-stack hyperconverged infrastructure technology; VM Cloud Director, a cloud service delivery platform used by leading cloud providers; VMware Cloud Assembly for orchestrating and expediting infrastructure and application delivery in line with DevOps principles; and the VMware Cloud Provider Programme of software-as-a-service offerings and an ecosystem of provider partners.
These can provide key elements of the digital foundation for short term tactical measures and long term strategic change, along with all the benefits of virtualisation.
Among these are environmental savings, with the efficiency of operations and better power management producing significant cuts in CO2 emissions. One example of an NHS organisation running VMware Cloud on an AWS cloud platform has produced energy savings of 135 million KWh and £12.2 million per year, with an 82% reduction in CO2 emissions.
Another is in keeping up the pace of change and retaining confidence in the associated costs. The time and costs involved in a cloud migration can mount up due to the use of dual infrastructure for some of the period, the need for refactoring applications and to adapt to a new operating model. VMware Cloud helps to reduce the disruption and facilitate a faster transition to using new tools and services.
It provides quick access to its tools and enables an organisation to dip its toe in the water in the early stages of a cloud migration, building an understanding of the challenges, costs and how it will need to work. This makes the change less threatening and contributes to a positive shift of mindset for transformation.
Positive signs have emerged for public sector digital in the course of the pandemic, but the underlying infrastructure needs to be managed carefully to ensure they can be progressed for the public good. The combination of virtualisation can play a big part in making this happen.
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