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July 2019
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Wandering lonely as a cloud

Wandering lonely as a cloud

Public sector optimism for cloud computing seems as buoyant as ever, despite the mist surrounding the government’s cloud policy yet to clear.

According to research from Xantus Consulting, released in September, the public sector sees the cloud as a positive opportunity to change the IT landscape, despite the government’s apparent focus on shorter-term, tangible cost-savings through data centre consolidation and a less cloud-focused approach.

Despite a change of government, the departure of Government CIO, John Suffolk, and a re-write of the IT strategy, cloud remains very clearly on the horizon for many central government departments, even if the G-Cloud banner may have been taken down.

Bright clouds

In fact, the biggest benefits of cloud may lie not with central administration, but with local authorities.

In terms of the ‘big picture’, Xantus’ research showed that The Cloud is clearly being seen as some kind of solution across all public and private sectors, with 98 per cent of those surveyed having already undertaken some level of feasibility study for using cloud services within their organisations.

Moving further towards implementation, the public sector is clearly way ahead. A third of public sector organisations have agreed a business case for some form of cloud-based computing, against just under 20 per cent in the private sector; a further third of public sector departments have already examined and deployed a system, against just 10 per cent of corporates.

Jumping hurdles

The most significant blocks to implementing cloud based services is integration with existing IT estates and the complexity involved. When it comes to managing cloud services, compliance was stated as the biggest internal block for the public sector.

But again, the public sector’s optimism shone through with 70 per cent of public sector respondents seeing rapid resolution to the challenges, while almost 10 per cent of private sector counterparts could not see any chance of resolution in the foreseeable future.

A wind of change for local authorities

The most significant benefits from cloud computing appear to be amongst local authorities, which can score massive, authority-wide returns through purchasing cloud-based finance, payroll and HR applications plus large process-driven governance areas such as planning.

So, for a cluster of 10 regional authorities, for example, significant cost savings are certain through a collaborative approach to cloud services. Just as well, because, according to the Xantus report, a quarter of public sector respondent expected returns of around 50 per cent.

In essence, for the public sector to maximise The Cloud (whether ultimately called G-Cloud or not) and IT departments to sell the true benefits, four key areas require examination:

Environmental – By reducing the amount of hardware required by each Department or Authority, the public sector can significantly lower carbon emissions associated with delivering ICT services.

Agility – cloud can provide greater agility and speed in delivering policy and services underpinned by lower-cost, shared infrastructure. Re-using existing assets, reducing procurement time and costs simply adds to implementation speed.

Effectiveness and efficiency – cloud will fundamentally contribute to cost savings for OEP and facilitate and accelerate public sector OEP targets.

Collaboration – smarter ways of collaborative working are on the horizon through integration of government information and data sources. In fact, 40 per cent of public sector respondents to the Xantus survey saw improved partner and supplier working as a key benefit.

Clear skies?

Undoubtedly, public sector cloud computing is here to stay. Yet, overall direction on cloud remains unclear from central government, despite recent confirmation of a £2bn public services network (PSN) framework. In the meantime, the public sector can only maintain its optimism for cloud in the hope that the landscape becomes clearer sometime soon.

The author is Clive Read, Principal Consultant at Xantus Consulting.

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