Combining cloud technology with company values to make a difference in local government (Guest blog by Centerprise International)
Author: Jeremy Nash, CEO, Centerprise International
A lifetime ago when I was studying Electrical Engineering at university, I recall being perplexed by the need to study ‘Industry in Society’ as a module. I struggled to find relevance in a subject that would have been more at home as part of a sociology or psychology degree rather than my chosen career field of engineering.. Fast forward several decades and the relevance has become abundantly clear.
The UK was once an industrial giant. The Industrial Revolution was born in the UK, stemming from inventions such as the spinning jenny and the steam engine. Industry created communities and shaped society. The direct relationship between industry and community is not what it once was, but that is not to say it is without influence on society. In fact, there is a strong argument for the digital industry having a greater impact on society than any other industry at any other time. Whether you view this impact as positive or negative will largely depend on your perspective.
The role of industry in society (as opposed to its impact on it) today is largely determined by the collective actions of individual company’s Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. These programmes undoubtedly offer benefit to the communities within which companies operate, but do they go far enough? At a time when the resources available to local authorities appear to be inversely proportional to the demands placed upon them, could and should industry be doing more? My view is undeniably yes.
Local authorities are having to contend with years of under-investment and the impact of this is no more evident than in IT.. This long-term under-investment has created layers of complexity around the ambition of local authorities to digitally transform their business. From legacy applications residing on aged infrastructure to insufficient people with the required digital and technological skills, the immediate challenge is biased towards managing the existing environment more than the ambition to transform.
Those charged with the remit to manage the status quo and strategise the future state are driven by the acute need to do more for less but find themselves powerless in the struggle to generate sufficient intellectual capacity to move forward. The appetite in local authorities to succeed is undiminished but the reality of the situation is not lost on them.
Cloud has a role in changing this paradigm by optimising the IT operating model and helping organisations digitally transform their business. However, we need to look past the hyperbole that surrounds cloud and accept that beyond its capabilities and benefits, lies constraints and liabilities. Cloud service providers need to help our customers understand that agility can often lead to inefficiency and elasticity can give way to indiscipline.
Not taking the time to architect an appropriate environment can lead to the inefficient provision of resources; just as the ability to expand storage capacity indefinitely can lead to poor data management practices. The convenience of cloud can serve to undermine its economic benefits, thereby exacerbating rather than easing ever-decreasing budgets. Working in partnership with local authorities to free IT departments of the mundane but critical task of managing infrastructure services can return intellectual capacity back to the organisation. Whilst this offers benefit in isolation, we should view it as merely being a step in the right direction. We need to help organisations leverage this additional capacity to help transform their business. Identify opportunities to re-engineer processes to remove waste, streamline effort and increase the relevance and utility of the public services they provide.
Cloud service providers need to help our customers understand that agility can often lead to inefficiency and elasticity can give way to indiscipline.
The opportunity exists for Industry to work in the interests of local authorities to set the conditions for success, and in doing so, enhancing the wellbeing and opportunities for current and future generations. This partnership between Industry and local authorities must however extend beyond a transactional supplier and customer relationship.
Cloud and technology partners equipped with relevant services, appropriately skilled resources and the core values to make a long-term investment can be the catalyst for change. I contend that working in partnership with local authorities to deliver the right outcomes for citizens extends beyond being rewarding work; it is becoming essential activity, as without it, the ever-increasing burden on public services from a growing and aging population will lead to increased social inequality.
This partnering approach requires shared investment and common values, as the challenge facing local authorities, and in turn the tech industry in its endeavour to be part of the solution, is significant. Whilst the mandates of local authorities and overall extent of their challenge may be similar to one another’s, they are each grappling with their individual constraints and unique set of problems. This landscape requires a joint willingness to re-think what it requires to be successful in an age of overly constrained resources and ever-increasing need.
Local authorities require the tech industry to be outcome providers ahead of technology providers.
There is no one size fits all approach to delivering success in this environment. The all-out adoption of cloud services is no more relevant to this challenge than maintaining a wholly traditional approach to data centre management. The solution will sit somewhere along the continuum between traditional infrastructure and full cloud adoption. To be relevant in this situation, the tech industry needs to be intimate with the challenges, which requires an investment in time and a level of empathy. It needs the resolve to work unwaveringly in the interests of local authorities and not be swayed by any internal investment decisions.
Local authorities require the tech industry to be outcome providers ahead of technology providers. If the tech industry has the appetite to do all of this and invest emotionally, financially and intellectually in the challenge, it can be an enabler to improve social, economic and environmental factors in our communities.
This is the time for the tech industry to play its role in society!
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