With the publication of its digital government Transformation Strategy in early 2017, the UK government set out its plans for using digital to transform the relationship between citizens and the state
The strategy represents an opportunity for delivering increased flexibility, security and productivity to teams across central government and will undoubtedly help to create a truly mobile workforce, attracting the best available talent. However, while the benefits of the strategy are clear, a few common challenges are causing many initiatives to stumble before they’ve even had a chance to begin.
The challenge of apps for everything
A huge number of different applications are in use today and many of them are legacy in-house applications that were developed many years ago. All of these existing applications must be factored into a transformation programme, and they will not – and should not – be turned off overnight.
The challenges this presents to a transformation initiative are manifold. There’s no guarantee, for example, that legacy apps will run on a dispersed Windows 10 estate. With the rise in ‘evergreen IT’ and the growing adoption of cloud-based platforms such as Office 365 and Windows-as-a-Service, the speed at which updates come down the line means the application lifecycle may no longer be compatible. Challenges also arise from the use of applications which hold extremely sensitive data, that can’t be shared beyond the barriers of the corporate network.
Enterprise file sync and sharing solutions pose less of a problem, however. Decoupling an application from an endpoint will give a department far greater control over lifecycle management, and guarantee that any changes made to a device as part of a transformation initiative will have no effect on the respective application. What’s more, compliance can be more easily enforced for particularly sensitive applications.
Making sense of data management
The increased shift towards cloud-based services has, perhaps naturally, led IT teams to centralise control of, and access to, data. Indeed, Office 365 has made this easy, with applications such as SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.
This centralisation is only one part of a broader data management puzzle. Users can now access data from many different locations, and with many options available for sharing and collaboration, the user experience has become unnecessarily complicated and given rise to a number of security questions around that data’s protection and privacy. A single application capable of managing data across multiple locations, while ensuring security, compliance and satisfactory user experience would, therefore, be the ideal solution. With such a solution in place, data could be stored in the most sensible location, with users able to securely access and share it via a single application, including on mobile devices.
Taking control of internet access
Internet connectivity is essential to any digital transformation programme and in today’s environment (where hacks and data breaches make the news on an almost daily basis) it is imperative that any internet access is as secure as possible. It’s relatively simple to control this access when it’s on-premise and within the confines of the corporate firewall. Once outside of these boundaries, however, it becomes considerably harder to control access and prevent anything harmful getting through.
Simply expecting employees to connect to the network via a VPN, for example, just isn’t practical. Not only will such practices provide a poor user experience, but it will also add to the existing strain on the network. Decoupling internet browsing from the endpoint, on the other hand, is a far more reasonable approach and having context-aware policies in place will enable departments to redirect browsing to a secure, cloud-hosted web browser session, completely isolated from both the device and the network to which that device is connected. That way, even if the browser session is compromised, neither the device nor the network will be impacted in any way.
Authenticate once and only once
While it’s entirely reasonable that government departments want to offer their employees the best possible user experience, many are falling short on doing so. Even when using the latest Windows 10 device to access leading collaboration tools and applications, there’s no guarantee that users will enjoy a seamless experience.
A requirement to authenticate each time an application or service is launched, for example, either remotely or locally, is a strong argument for a ‘single sign-on’ mechanism. After all, having authenticated their identity once, there should be no need for anyone to do so again simply because the next application they launch has a different login mechanism.
The public sector, in common with businesses of all stripes, is undergoing a digital transformation in a bid to improve its operational processes and the user experience it offers. While it faces a number of challenges in undertaking this transformation, these can all be overcome with a combination of the right support and deep sector understanding. By embracing cloud services, and systematically addressing these challenges, the government’s transformation efforts will soon gather pace, and begin delivering tangible benefits for the state and its citizens.
UK government at Citrix