Anwen Robinson, UK Operating Officer at TechnologyOne looks at how cloud technology can help local governments to improve its services, in this article
Cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) innovations have rooted themselves as essential components of enterprise strategies in the UK and internationally. Additionally, this approach has also become significant for UK local authorities and in 2013 the government launched a Cloud First policy which gave preference to the use of cloud over on-premise offerings. While there have been many cloud adoption success stories, it was recently revealed through Freedom of Information (FoI) requests that 40 UK councils still see cloud migration as a work in progress. With many feeling like they’re at the early stages of their cloud journeys, it’s important that local councils realise the benefits of SaaS deployment in an impactful way – whether it be to reap the rewards of increased efficiency or a healthier bottom line.
Grappling legacy IT
Predictably, local council IT systems evolve over time and very often this means that data is held in separate repositories. Managing disparate and legacy IT systems is no easy task and this process can make it difficult for local governments to deliver great services efficiently to citizens. Although there are many successful cloud implementations in Local Government, instances where this is not the case, could result from a number of factors; complex IT infrastructures, leaders struggling to chart a cloud migration path for their organisations, pushback from IT or individuals wishing to preserve the status quo, vague cloud definitions and conflicting advice from vendors can all lead to cloud inertia. While IT should be seen as a tool to help organisations achieve their goals, it can sometimes feel like a trap with the complexity of disparate applications and legacy IT making the journey to cloud seem insurmountable.
With the current economic landscape putting budgets under increasing pressure, upgrading to a SaaS-based IT system can provide local authorities with an effective way to improve services, while increasing operational efficiency. Not only does this approach join up systems but it also ensures that data is secure and accessible to staff and citizens that need it – when they need it. It’s worth keeping in mind that SaaS is not only a strategic move, it’s imperative and the move to cloud also allows local councils to access the latest technologies.
In fact, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) was one of the first to adopt a cloud IT strategy following a realisation that they needed to completely re-think their service delivery model to match the limitations of austerity. They were the first in the UK to take back office services in the cloud, removing all IT infrastructure and instead automating processes. As well as benefiting from the power of a single, integrated enterprise solution, AVDC bought into a solution which adapts and evolves, positioning them well to harness the full value of smart mobile devices and other emerging technologies such as AI to transform internal operations and improve customer interaction.
Creating a path to success
When looking to implement SaaS technology it’s important to have a clear view of what success will look like – the future state – and to clearly define the current state. While most local government organisations are similar in structure, they are also as unique as the citizens they serve. It’s essential that local government organisations develop their own unique path to transition based on its existing applications, systems and requirements. Additionally, it’s also worth noting that a ‘lift and shift’ approach – placing current applications into a hosted environment – won’t deliver true transformation. A true enterprise SaaS solution is built from the ground up, and shoehorning a solution developed for on premise delivery is often fraught with challenges.
SaaS models are easy to implement and a popular choice under the Government Cloud First policy because of their enterprise IT functionality and back-office efficiencies. For local councils, Enterprise IT has the ability to transform processes, reduce costs and provide greater scalability in order to maximise business value. This approach allows local councils to maintain a flexible infrastructure, adapt to changing business requirements and facilitate data sharing across departments, agencies, authorities and organisations in order to improve services.
Transforming services with SaaS
For those local government organisations yet to fully embrace cloud, it can be difficult to visualise how cloud can transform services for their staff and citizens. But, look to other organisations and it becomes clear the difference cloud can make. Joined up services are better services. An enterprise approach breaks down departmental silos and time constraints and supports collaboration and mobility. Ultimately facilitating the availability of information at anytime and anywhere. This enables local government to join up all their data, reduce duplication and costs, as well as improve efficiencies and streamline processes through end-to-end management of council operations.
Austerity is here to stay and the challenges of delivering modern services for new generations of citizens will only increase. The only choice for local government is the extent to which cloud is embraced and how successful that is in the future. Successfully implementing cloud in the first place can help authorities to continue reaping the efficiencies and benefits for staff and citizens in years to come.