The UK public sector has been an early adopter of the first iteration of digital capabilities – what we might call ‘Digital 1.0’. Initial steps, such as channel shift by offering self-service online forms to reduce processing costs and increase accuracy, were relatively easy to undertake and brought clear and immediate benefits.
Despite those steps forward, more advanced ‘Digital 2.0’ capabilities are fast becoming essential, with organisations citing both budget pressures (56%) and citizen demand (26%) as the leading drivers for service transformation. Citizen expectations are also key - already, half of UK citizens see digital services as “very” important to their daily lives, with a quarter saying they use digital applications or services whenever possible.
However, it will come as no surprise that more advanced ‘Digital 2.0’ capabilities are harder to achieve. The age of ‘Excel warriors’ is coming to an end. Spreadsheets just aren’t sufficient in a ‘Digital 2.0’ world where joined-up data, advanced analytics, user-friendly presentation of information, automation and intelligence empowers not just better decision-making, but better services.
It follows that improving the use of existing information assets demands more agile and cohesive IT. But few organisations have the resources to develop on-premises systems that can deliver on the promise of ‘Digital 2.0’ services – such as applying big data analytics to find citizens at risk and intervene earlier or integrating adult social care with the Internet of Things (IoT) to keep people at home longer with real-time remote health monitoring via wearable sensors.
Enter the cloud
In planning for ‘Digital 2.0’ transformation, the public sector faces a maze of competing solutions, legacy requirements and security concerns. Amid unrelenting pressure from day-to-day operations and a lack of digital or cloud skills, organisations are also short on the time and expertise needed to deliver their desired outcomes.
Fortunately, cloud-based capabilities can address much of this heavy-lifting. When managed correctly, the cloud can free public sector organisations from the technical and financial hurdles that traditionally prevent service transformation. With millions of customers, hyperscale cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure have unleashed enormous economies of scale – dramatically reducing the time, cost and risk associated with IT innovation. Capabilities that would once have only been accessible to the largest and most profitable enterprises are now available to all. The public sector must capitalise on this opportunity.
Failure is an option
Building a digital vision fit for 2020 and beyond requires a new mindset. Public sector organisations should be at liberty to test, trial, fail fast and iterate with the knowledge that not all ‘Digital 2.0’ services will succeed. However, by dramatically lowering the time and cost of trialling new approaches, the cloud also makes failure acceptable, giving organisations the freedom to test new ideas.
Meanwhile, adopting the cloud itself needn’t be a risky process. The first step is identifying the right IT strategy and target operating model, as well as building a fully-costed business case.
With this clear roadmap in hand, organisations can rationalise existing IT systems to ensure they’re fit for purpose, correctly sized and still required. This not only reduces the cost of cloud migration, it also makes adoption faster, safer and simpler to manage.
With on-going expert support, the cloud’s value can then be increased over the long-term: flexibly scaling services up or down, ensuring organisations only pay for what they need, and exploiting new capabilities as they emerge.