The case for moving to cloud is something that has been well documented and goes a lot further than just a financial business case comparing like for like costs on infrastructure. Despite this, and commitments and mandates from central government departments, local health Trusts and government still face challenges to build a compelling business case for decision. Over the last 18 months, Shaping Cloud has supported 23 Trusts and LAs to pull together just this and so we thought it might help others if we summarised the common challenges in the sector and some areas to consider when building your case.
The main challenge to cloud adoption in the public sector is that IT has traditionally been funded through capital investment, which is particularly challenging for NHS Trusts who continue to rely on national and regional annual allocations of capital funding. Moving to cloud demands some sort of revenue model, and/or accurate up-front modelling of committed consumption, which can partly erode the on-demand benefits cloud services provide.
Added to this, the fact that NHS Trusts and LAs have experienced increased demand on health and social care services and reduced revenue funding for the last 4 years and for the foreseeable future, this presents quite a financial conundrum.
The other major challenge in the sector is the number of niche legacy applications with no definite roadmap to SaaS, which if left behind can cause architectural and performance challenges or an inability to fully realise the benefits of adopting cloud.
Building your Business Case
Moving systems and applications to the cloud needs to be carefully thought through and we recommend a strategy be developed first, because untangling the legacy environments that have incrementally been built over time needs careful planning. However, when building your business case for cloud, you can start to develop this by addressing three main areas:
Provide a confident basis on which to plan and progress adoption by:
- Establishing a full total cost of ownership (TCO) comparison of changing the strategic architecture to a cloud-first model, including effort and environmental costs
- Ensuring that depreciation and interest on financing is factored into the TCO
- Consider VAT recovery options for cloud services for certain organisations
Cloud offers great solutions to meet most current strategic requirements of IT without the risk and expense traditionally associated with digital projects, enabling organisations to stand up and try solutions swiftly and develop these iteratively with the business to most accurately meet their needs. We have found that most organisations:
- Have strategic plans to collaborate more across their locality or region – cloud-based collaboration and communication tools are designed for this
- Have already made at least one significant purchase of a SaaS solution in order to simplify effort around regularly upgrading their business application, for security reasons, or just to align with the vendor’s roadmap – these services need to be brought into overall architecture and service management plans
- Want to be driving better use of their data – preparations for moving to cloud require a close look at datasets and cloud offers some great options for structured and unstructured data, data analysis, and data visualisation
- Are exploring digitising and/or automating workflow – there are low cost options for this on-demand from Cloud Service Providers (CSP) and cloud app providers on public CSPs
- Are wanting to better integrate their systems in order to improve customer journeys and better track delivery – again there are on-demand options for this, where costs scale only with use
- Are struggling to have sufficient capacity within their IT teams to meet business demand and at the same time struggle to retain or recruit the latest digital skills in their IT teams. Cloud can free up staff time to focus on data, functionality, and capabilities and provides interest for IT professionals wanting to progress in their careers
3. Security & Compliance
Cloud can introduce new risks that need to be taken into consideration, but we have found that the benefits of cloud generally outweigh the risks when it comes to local public service organisations, including:
- Certified security provision for the full wrap of VM hosting options if selecting a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) carefully, mitigating many risks we’ve observed at most organisations
- Cost-efficient, highly scalable options for backup and disaster recovery
- Operating System and Database licensing options that are cheaper than on prem and ensure continued support for security patching
- Cross-platform, granular identity and access control options
- Cost-efficient long-term data retention
We have just completed an assessment and cloud adoption strategies for the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care region. A key learning point from that exercise is that whilst the business case for each organisation stands on their own merit, the financial and non-financial benefits to be had if organisations collaborate and work together are exponentially greater. A good example is the sharing of the remaining local infrastructure required – enabling realisation of data centre rationalisation in full for some organisations, where they would not have been able to do this on their own.