Here David Turner, Managing Director at MSC Digital, talks us through a simple strategy and approach for a cloud-based solution
HMG has over £38 billion of digital transformation programmes underway yet over £400 billion of the Government’s operating revenues are reliant on legacy IT. And while your organisation needs to be agile, your legacy infrastructure is the polar opposite and doesn’t readily support this transformation.
Since 2014, our team has transformed legacy technology platforms for several large central government departments.
We initially tried to migrate legacy infrastructure to the cloud in a like-for-like way but soon discovered that a “lift and shift” without any transformation just moved the problem elsewhere and didn’t realise the benefits we were seeking.
Technology transformation is only truly successful when not constrained by legacy architecture – you need the freedom to consider any solution, service or product – and when you start thinking in a completely different way, the solution becomes transformational and the benefits far greater.
Embracing public cloud and the internet, we stripped down what all the infrastructure actually did and discovered the challenge we were trying to solve wasn’t particularly complex (see Figure 1).
More technology, less infrastructure
We care that “our thing” (laptop, smartphone, tablet) can connect to “our stuff” (our data, digital services and applications) and we want to manage which bits of our stuff “our user” can access. That’s it.
But while the value is clearly with our stuff and our user, multiple layers of infrastructure and hardware have historically been placed between those points, providing a convoluted and annoying user experience.
The average government transaction crosses 35 technology systems!
Our technology transformation programmes now deliver an environment like the one illustrated in Figure 2.
There are very few moving parts – a wireless endpoint device and a bunch of loosely coupled cloud services. The two key areas are Endpoint Management (UEM) and Identity and Access Management (IDAM) – to manage “our thing” and “our user”.
Add cloud hosting for digital services, data and applications (with automated updates and patching) – to manage “our stuff” – and cloud productivity tools (O365 or G Suite), and you truly begin to reap the benefits.
How do we get from here to there?
The first step is to intervene and stop all the complex and expensive infrastructure stuff happening.
Talk to your users and understand their needs: What work do they do? Where and how do they want to do it? What sort of things do they want to do with technology? Talk to your digital teams and understand their ambitions.
Understand what your legacy environment looks like, what it does and where it is. Create a register (a spreadsheet will do) and map all your legacy services (not the servers they run on) to standard commodity cloud components (which you can buy on G-Cloud).
Design around services, not pieces of infrastructure, hardware or projects.
Make everything as simple as you can. Take a modular approach and look for flexible and adaptable services that will let you change isolated parts as necessary without having to transform a whole system.
Focus on your endpoints not the transport mechanism – The internet is not just OK, it’s the only network you need.
Automate configuration and patching wherever you can and take advantage of any quick, cheap and easy improvements that come along.
Finally, develop your staff at the same time as you are transforming so they can run, support and iterate the new environment, and budget for future continuous improvement.
Hybrid – a predicament, not a strategy
Although a Hybrid environment may seem tempting you should consider it only as a last resort for anything you absolutely can’t retire, replace or refactor.
Also beware of “hiding” legacy infrastructure – ‘wrapping’ legacy systems with APIs or using VDI-like environments to make legacy applications more accessible.
These are temporary escape routes which add to, rather than reduce, the overall complexity of your technology.
You’re not just changing the tech. This type of transformation is about more than just changing your legacy technology.
You’re changing the way you design, procure, secure and manage your environment so you’ll need an appetite for some degree of culture change, or you may fail to realise many of the benefits.
The good news is that your users are already in the cloud in their non-work world.
They are mobile, always connected, and expect this kind of tech environment as the norm – like Uber, Netflix and Deliveroo.
Be brave and keep your eye on the prize. The payoff for persevering is huge.
Over six years of transforming government technology in this way we have improved the IT experience for over 40,000 civil servants and consistently reduced annual technology costs by 40% – 50%, saving over £40 million for HMG and the British taxpayer. Give us a call if we can help you.
Please note: This is a commercial profile
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