“Consider cloud solutions before alternatives.”
That isn’t our slightly underwhelming sales pitch – it’s the pointed advice from the government’s own web page on its ‘Cloud-First’ policy, launched back in 2013.
Since then the public sector has spent billions of pounds on cloud technology through the G-Cloud procurement framework, so clearly the policy is having an impact.
But last year the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) announced that it’s collaborating with the Government Digital Service (GDS) to review the Cloud-First policy and create a more ‘appropriate’ piece of guidance.
Director of CCS’s technology arm Niall Quinn told Computer Weekly, “It has become apparent that one size does not fit all, and organisations should make sure they understand what the journey to ‘cloud’ is and means for them.”
He added, “We are seeing more and more customers land on a hybrid solution and therefore ‘cloud first’ may not be right for everyone.”
Reading between the lines, it feels like the promises made about cloud seven years ago are perhaps not being delivered.
In part (quite a big part), it comes down to infrastructure.
Because however big your ambitions are, however far you can stretch your budget, if core foundations like your network aren’t right you’ll never fully realise the benefits of cloud technology.
According to a survey by Cloud Industry Forum, 90% of organisations have experienced difficulties migrating to a cloud solution, with 43% citing complexity as a migration issue – the most-cited issue by far.
Clearly there’s a job to do in unravelling that complexity, paving the way for faster, more effective digital change in future.
Why infrastructure matters
Before exploring how to improve IT infrastructure in the public sector, it’s important to talk about why it matters.
Let’s start with the most obvious reason: even in the short time since 2013, the way people work has fundamentally changed.
35% of staff expect more flexibility in how they work, according to a recent Ovum report, while the government says all civil service departments must implement ‘smarter working’ by the end of 2022, with 70% doing so by the end of this year.
The government’s own definition of smarter working includes having ‘the right policies, processes and tools’ in place, designing workspaces to ‘meet business need and remove barriers to collaboration’ and using technology to ‘enable a digital workplace that is mobile and accessible, enabling collaboration, document sharing and communication’.
In fact, 77% of public sector organisations already offer remote working, according to a study by Softworks.
With so many people working outside traditional working times and environments, all needing to access apps and share information securely, the networks most public sector organisations use today are a far cry from good enough.
But this is about citizens, too, of course. And with only 22% of UK citizens using government digital services ‘often’, according to a recent Accenture study, clearly there’s some work to do in improving those services and communicating them to the public.
Again, however, you need an infrastructure that can keep up with the public’s fast-rising standards for digital experiences – standards set by the consumer brands they happily use every day.
Traditional networks don’t allow you to add new digital services quickly or securely enough to react to that changing demand in time.
Small steps, big impact
All this talk of paving the way for faster, more secure and more effective cloud adoption is great. But as anyone who has ever worked in the public sector can tell you, big, scary things like changing your whole network do not get given the green light quickly or easily.
With today’s cloud-based, software-powered networks, however, you don’t have to overhaul everything at once. You can move your organisation to the cloud in stages, as and when you’re ready, unlocking incremental benefits along the way without losing sleep to widespread disruption.
The journey to a modern network will be a calm and gradual one, but when you look back in years to come the difference will suddenly feel enormous.