The challenges and opportunities facing the public sector
At the beginning of 2020, in conjunction with our partner Vysiion, Cloud Gateway released a report detailing survey responses from IT leaders across the public sector concerning their cloud and digital transformation strategies. The paper’s central theme was the government’s 2013 Cloud First policy. The results proved an interesting insight into how different organisations from across central and local government have interpreted and implemented the guidelines, including some of the common obstacles to transformation.
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The COVID-19 pandemic soon followed the publication of the report, fundamentally changing the way public sector organisations operate and deliver services. A second instalment of the survey was subsequently commissioned to explore the impact of COVID-19 on the original results, and to determine whether attitudes towards Cloud First had been changed by the experiences of the pandemic.
Interestingly, the majority of the themes and conclusions raised by the first survey remain equally, if not more, relevant one year on as we begin to emerge from the pandemic and assess the lay of the land. Organisations were forced to deliver services remotely with little or no warning. Critical services could not simply be switched off or suspended. Existing challenges around cloud adoption and digital transformation had to be overcome or put aside in order to respond to the pandemic. IT leaders were forced to fast track cloud adoption plans to enable operational changes that would allow the organisation to function.
The last 12 – 18 months have demonstrated why the adoption of cloud, with its associated benefits, has become such a large part of government policy and guidelines. Whilst cloud is not a one-size-fits-all solution, those organisations that had embraced digital transformation were often better positioned to deal with the impact of the pandemic.
Justin Day, CEO at Cloud Gateway, said: “In the wake of the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge acceleration in cloud adoption across both public and private sectors. However, IT leaders had little time to think strategically, with tactical fixes taking precedence in the short term. Particularly in government, there is a lot of old infrastructure around, but unfortunately that is responsible for some very important forward-facing services. Now public sector organisations have a chance to take a step back, think strategically, and build something which transforms moving forward.”
For a full explanation and commentary of the results, download the ebook: Becoming a Digital Pioneer in the Public Sector. Here is a quick breakdown of the key issues covered:
Security and resilience for remote working
While it is expected that workforces will return to the office at some point in the future, 91% of survey respondents say that remote working will be a prominent part of the working culture going forward. Cloud-based services, including collaboration and video conferencing tools, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and security software, to name a few of the most common, have all been utilised on an unprecedented scale to allow organisations to operate remotely. These will likely be required long into the future. Survey responses highlighted that issues surrounding security and data sharing ranked highest on the list of concerns in the move to this working model.
Cloud strategy and digital transformation
The survey revealed that 73% of IT leaders had been forced to re-evaluate their cloud strategy as a result of the pandemic, with an overwhelming majority – some 82% – committed to a hybrid model that utilises a combination of on-premise, public and private cloud environments and infrastructure. This is not a big surprise when we consider the benefits associated with hybrid cloud strategies surrounding resilience and business continuity.
The pandemic has forced organisations to look at continuity, in any and all scenarios, differently. The cloud brings organisations a myriad of options around flexibility and pace of change, alleviating short-term pain as well as creating a foundation for future change. Many organisations rely upon a combination of technology vendors and consultants to design and implement their cloud strategies. In many instances, the pandemic has served to create, or at least substantiate, a whole plethora of new uses supporting the case for digitalisation, however a lack of in-house skills could hamper organisations’ ability to identify the right strategy for them and their services.
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The Cloud First policy requires public sector organisations to consider public cloud services first, however they are free to choose other options providing they can demonstrate that it offers the right levels of security, flexibility and value for money. While GDS is confident that the public sector fully understands the policy, our survey results found that 50% of respondents were not completely clear on the guidelines, with a fifth of organisations incorrectly believing that they ‘must move fully to public cloud’. This sort of misinterpretation could easily undermine an organisation’s whole digital strategy, or at the very least get it off on the wrong footing. A comprehensive understanding of the original guidelines and subsequent updates is critical to launching a transformation programme that delivers outcomes beneficial to the organisation, whether that be to facilitate secure remote working, reduce administrative overheads or innovate current systems and applications.
Download the full ebook here. You’ll find additional analysis of the survey results, case studies from across central and local government, as well as insights from IT leaders and experts pioneering meaningful and sustainable change for their organisations. The pandemic has provided a timely reminder that the public sector has plenty of organisations and people driving transformation in this way.