A couple of years ago, I posted an article on LinkedIn about cloud adoption in the public sector and what the barriers to adoption were.
Two years on, the market has matured, with significant numbers of applications being offered in a subscription based, SaaS guise and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) in the form of Azure and AWS becoming a mainstream part of the ICT portfolio for the public sector.
But is it all a bed of roses? From studying a range of councils across the UK, I have to say that experience is mixed.
Without a doubt, the most successful shifts to cloud have been those that have taken an “end to end” view of service delivery and not viewed Cloud as an IT issue alone. As I said in my original article, ripping and replacing on-premise IT with a cloud equivalent will not deliver real savings – all you are doing is shifting expenditure from capital onto revenue budgets (which are already under pressure) and increasing the recurring cost of ICT provision. Not always an easy sell to CFOs and Cabinets.
However, a number of councils have taken the opportunity to look at how they do business in the round, moving away from service-specific line of business applications to platform services such as Salesforce, introducing generic working and even more generic processes. Embracing the “work is what you do, not where you go” ethos and consolidating all end-user computing and communications onto a single tablet, laptop or even phone. And there, despite the significant up-front investment required, are the savings over time – smaller, more agile organisations delivering more generic, less customised services.
OK, it’s not the personalised service Nirvana promised by technology transformation consultants and service managers will be protesting “but we do things a special way here, it just won’t work for us” but the question is – against a backdrop of swathes of budget cuts, tax hikes and increasing service pressures, will it work well enough?
Put it another way, this is an opportunity to reduce the overall process cost, remove failure demand and move spend to where it has more of a direct impact on people and communities. And that doesn’t necessarily have to be at the cost of reduced service quality, if you concentrate on outcomes – the “what” rather than the “how”.
To quote the recently published Best Value inspection report into Northamptonshire County Council, “In Local Government there is no substitute for doing boring really well. Only when you have a solid foundation can you innovate.”