Putting the user at the heart of cloud-first strategies

Kate Warboys, Head of Marketing at Arcus Global, discusses why she believes that when local authorities take steps to migrate their services to the cloud, the experience of the end-user should be at the heart of every decision

Cloud-first strategies have been the driving force behind digital transformation projects in the public sector. Moving beyond on-premise legacy IT estates is seen as a key step in helping organisations become more agile and effective. Cloud solutions are therefore implemented to serve a real business purpose. But, we do need to remember that a cloud-first strategy has to be about the end result – and that’s putting the user first.

To 90% of end-users, the fact that the technology they utilise every day is, or is not, cloud-based is of little relevance. Popular social media applications such as Instagram or Facebook attract millions who are interested in communicating and sharing content easily. For this reason, social media users are not directly concerned about the cloud technology powering the applications, except for when it comes to data protection.

The same is true for most staff at local authorities. What employees want is an application that opens and works when they need it to and allows them to complete their work in the most efficient and reliable manner. That may be cloud, hybrid, or on-premise.

The focus should be on the benefits the technology has to the end-user, be that residents, businesses or staff, and not just the benefits of the technology to the IT department.

Re-thinking digital transformation

Digital transformation has become a catchphrase that can seem a bit too vague to some; it is important for authorities to focus on what digital transformation means to them, and for them to define the process clearly.

Digital transformation is more relevant when defined as ‘enabling transformation through digital tools’. The focus in this definition is on the ‘transformation’ and not the ‘digital’ element. This allows organisations to highlight the benefits of positive change and evolution. In organisational terms, just moving services to digital and cloud without a focus on the transformation of services is not enough.

Benefits for all

Cloud technology has an important role to play in this process. It has the ability to be configured in a way that enables and supports transformation in a relatively speedy process without high upfront costs and in an iterative manner.

Cloud computing brings other important benefits. Cloud solutions benefit from regular upgrades provided by the cloud vendor, they are accessible 24×7, and they are built with the latest, most stringent security protocols in mind. These systems can also be flexible and scalable, adapting to the changing needs of a local authority over time. In addition, they can achieve significant efficiency savings as they eliminate the need to buy, build or maintain your own IT infrastructure, and can be used across multiple platforms – mobile and smart devices, for example.

Whilst the above bring benefits to the IT department, cloud technology also combines mainstream digital tools, such as instant messaging (IM) and video-call technologies with collaboration and productivity tools. This revolutionises the way people communicate and work, offering them ubiquitous access and helping organisations and their staff become truly location-agnostic.

Focus on what works for the end-users

For example, think of busy, local authority planning departments. Staff receive and process large volumes of planning applications every day. What they care about is whether the systems they use turn on every morning, allowing them and their team to work efficiently both in the office as well as remotely. They want these systems to have maximum uptime; not held up by power failures, essential maintenance, or upgrades. They might not necessarily be interested in learning more about the technology behind these solutions, but they want to be reassured that this technology will help them manage the workflow, provide them with the necessary data and help them process applications quickly and accurately. It’s about the outcomes and not the mechanics of it all.

Similarly, a local authority’s busy customer services department can deploy AI-chatbots on cloud platforms to handle large volumes of straight forward or repetitive queries and process data to deliver a single view of each customer. This would enable agents to focus on more complex or sensitive cases and have all the information they need readily available to them. In this case, cloud technology empowers end users by helping them manage their workflow, prioritising the cases that need human attention and accessing the data and insights they need quickly and accurately. As a result, both staff and customers receive a better user experience.

Cloud technology can be an important ally for authorities to achieve their transformation plans. However, for this to be successful and achieve the goals set for the project, they need to have a clear view of their users’ needs.

Cloud technology can be a key transformation enabler for the organisations that know what they want to get out of it. With the tools available these days, there really is very little to limit the art of the possible. It’s time to put the focus back on the users of systems and away from IT’s cloud-first strategies.

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