28 Jun 2021

Foundry4: Why we've got to keep banging the drum for cloud in the public sector

As a technology, cloud has been a firm presence in the corporate consciousness for the past ten to fifteen years, as organisations have sought to become more agile, deliver greater value to their customers, and make their operations more resilient. 

Yet although cloud adoption is accelerating across government, many services behind the front end still rely on pre-cloud, legacy technology systems run from local data centres. The migration of these legacy systems to the cloud is an increasing trend, but this migration is fundamentally a technical project - not one that is inherently transformative. 

Even when government aims to improve the provision of online services, or commits to migrating physical data centres, there is often a lack of wider understanding of the full opportunities inherent in cloud computing. These are the business model opportunities to truly transform operations, respond to changing environments at pace, and deliver much greater value to the taxpayer. 

How perceived risks hinder adoption 

Given the nature and profile of government services it is understandable that risk management is an important part of Civil Service culture. However, this can be problematic when it comes to digital transformation. 

A decade ago, conversations about cloud migration focused on the perceived security risks – would moving technology away from on-premise data centres, for example, translate to a loss of control of systems and data? The answer, of course, was no – but it required a significant shift in mindset from traditional IT approaches to get there. 

Today, the public sector has largely accepted that public cloud is a necessary part of modern technology infrastructure. However, concerns remain about how to architect services correctly, with institutions worried that moving to the cloud will cause their costs to spiral out of control. More education therefore still needs to be done to share knowledge around best practice in cloud governance and management. 

Unlocking potential 

The real risk associated with the cloud now is being left behind in the long term, excluding government from the benefits of the technology as it continues to evolve. 

Where cloud began as a way of providing faster, more efficient hosting of digital services, with the advantages of storage and greater access to data, we now have public cloud ecosystems offering thousands of additional products, services and features. These promise advanced capabilities in the form of Natural Language Processing, Internet of Things connectivity, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and edge computing – yet they can only be unlocked through a base in cloud. 

Although digital transformation as a general rule should not be driven by technology, cloud computing can really be seen as a facilitator, unlocking the path to further technologies and even greater benefits for the public sector. By helping government move away from the high failure rates, security issues and poor user experience provided by legacy technology, and by paving a route towards the future benefits of advanced technologies, cloud is a critical investment now for the public sector. And that's before we've even mentioned the challenges ahead in the covid-19 recovery... 

Find out more about the key priority areas for digital transformation in central government by downloading Foundry4's latest free report

This blog was originally written by James Herbert, CEO, Foundry4. James is a leading technology strategist and award-winning entrepreneur with a track record in delivering innovative but pragmatic approaches to digital services. He has worked with Cabinet Office teams designing the G-Cloud procurement framework, the foundations of the Digital Marketplace and the world’s first government Cloud-First technology strategy. 

James has held leadership roles in some of the most significant public-sector technology-led transformation programmes over the last 10 years, establishing the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Identity Cards programme and the development of Government Shared Service centres. Learn more about this author here

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