Tim Lovejoy, VP Government and Private Cloud at Rackspace Technology EMEA, discusses the rise of smart sourcing within public sector IT
Public sector organisations have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic as they strive to serve citizens. In many ways their challenge has been attenuated by legacy technologies which have made the move to home working difficult. Most however have risen to the challenge, stretching budgets, skills and capacity.
Many have also embarked on digital projects and, in common with many other industries, this has accelerated the adoption of cloud architectures. In doing so, many have realised they need and want to govern their IT differently so that they consume services in the right way at the right time.
As a result, we are seeing a new trend of ‘smart sourcing’ emerging. Smart sourcing is being portrayed as a way of taking control, making organisations more agile and flexible in the management of their IT estates, and giving them the freedom to innovate rapidly as new technologies come online.
So, following the catalysing effect of the pandemic on a new era of public sector IT, what exactly is smart sourcing, and what steps do public sector organisations need to take to achieve it?
The current landscape
Outsourcing IT has been seen a popular solution by many industries. The opinion being that it would improve performance and reduce cost and risk as a result of having third parties manage operations.
However, many organisations have learned that, while outsourcing can bring them the required performance in the short-term, over the longer-term it’s vitally important to retain key knowledge. To avoid a vicious cycle of reducing capability and a greater dependency on third-party providers.
As a result the trend is increasingly shifting to one of insourcing and smart sourcing. This empowers public sector organisations to take control of their technology by rebuilding in-house skills.
Yet despite the long drive behind the government’s cloud-first strategy, there is still debate around the best way to harness cloud technology. A debate more challenging because no two organisations have the same estate and architecture as starting points. So as a crucial first step, each needs to understand the status quo and the desired destination, in terms of services and technology.
This shift has occurred alongside a significant drive to take up cloud services. While not all digital leaders in the public sector are convinced by the ‘cloud-first’ approach, most do recognise the intrinsic role cloud has in their plans. As a result, we’re seeing many organisations now moving specific sets of data and applications into public and private cloud repositories. This trend has been accelerated by the pandemic, to the point where it is unlikely there is any organisation in the public sector that has not looked at, or isn’t looking at, cloud and the best way to source its technology requirements.
Getting smarter with IT
The accelerated adoption of cloud, coupled with a growing appreciation of the need to bolster in-house IT expertise, is encouraging more public sector organisations to consider smart sourcing, as a more flexible approach that allows scope for procuring the ‘best of breed’ solutions.
Smart sourcing can provide a fruitful middle ground between full outsourced and in-house delivery of IT services that maximises the benefits of both worlds to create a future-proofed technology environment. It can also help organisations find the right blend of cloud platforms, hybrid and on-premise systems to create a multi-cloud approach that meets their unique demands, while balancing investment in external and internal skills – paying for the former only when there is real value in doing so, and building up the latter to increase their control over the long-term.
With the flexibility and agility required in today’s digital world, smart sourcing is a continuous process, not a one-off event. It is a “mindset” that empowers IT leaders to get the best combination of technology services and suppliers for their organisation as their needs evolve. It requires smart thinking to get the most from the plethora of cloud options available – treating multiple suppliers as a menu from which to find the right fit for their organisation.
Getting on the road to smart sourcing
One of the first steps to smart sourcing is to map the organisation’s current services and technology architecture, including that in any existing outsourcing contract. This is the best way to track how it is performing, its effect on users and citizens, and begin to understand how it can be managed for optimum results. A thorough understanding of the organisation’s information architecture is also key, along with assessment of the critical or commodity nature of each element. Inevitably, as elements change there are impacts on other parts of the whole – knowing exactly which components fit where is essential to making a good start.
Secondly, it is vital that public sector organisations ensure their skills and knowledge are retained and invest in education, especially because retaining a core internal team offers a degree of agility. In the main, smart sourcing is around out tasking and not out sourcing so knowledge is rarely impacted.
Choosing the right path for your organisation
Ultimately, while big changes in technology and business management can open up new opportunities, there is no one single approach that is likely to provide the best solution for all public sector organisations. As a result, many are now coming to realise the benefits of smart sourcing to get both the benefits of in-house and third-party skills, as well as maximise the benefits of the cloud services they leverage.