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Demystifying the value of the cloud for the public sector

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Our recent Journey to the Cloud research found that much of the public sector still has some catching up to do when it comes to rolling out cloud services. Around three quarters of public sector organisations said that they were taking their first tentative steps in cloud implementation, compared to around a third of the private sector saying they were at the same stage. It may come as little surprise then that only 2% of the public sector cited that they work in a ‘highly pro-cloud’ sector, meaning that many organisations at board level still need convincing that the cloud is a worthwhile investment. What could be fuelling the cloud’s image problem in the public sector and perhaps causing delayed implementation for many organisations?

When we dug a little deeper our research uncovered what drives the public sector to the cloud, and this helped us to better understand how it’s perceived. Meeting public sector organisations on a daily basis means that I hear common concerns regularly yet the results from the survey were still surprising in some ways. The most commonly cited business objective for the public sector was to cut costs, cited by 65%, while the most popular IT objective was to replace end of life technology. I’m confident that most IT managers know that cloud can be a worthwhile tool to drive innovation. Advancements that cloud services present, such as giving you access to greater resources at the touch of a button and giving you the ability to scale storage requirements up and down when necessary, are well-known in the IT industry. But despite this, only around a quarter of the public sector cited this as a cloud objective. With innovation playing such a crucial part of the benefits that cloud can bring it seems that the public sector may not understand how the cloud can play a part in evolving the organisation.

So how do you convince those at board-level that the cloud can and should be the engine room for innovation? As the public sector progresses into online services for activity such as council tax payments and housing benefit applications, the cloud can give you to technical resources to support this. Implementing online customer services can make processes less time-consuming and more cost-effective, which according to our research is a key priority for the public sector. It was announced recently that every NHS building will provide free Wi-Fi access to ‘improve patient services’; another demand that the public sector can’t ignore and that the cloud can enable. Given that board-level public sector employees should be constantly looking for ways to save money and adapt to customer needs, these examples are a good place to start in winning over cloud acceptance in your organisation.

Once cloud adoption has been approved, it can be a challenge to establish factors such as how many services you want to put in the cloud, and the kind of solution you require. But assistance can lie in partnerships. If you require guidance to help you adopt the cloud to innovate, a partnership with a private sector organisation can be the answer. But looking closer to home for a partnership can be worthwhile too. The aforementioned case of implementing free NHS Wi-Fi suggests that public sector organisations can and should look to each other for help and advice and work together when deploying new technology.

Cutting costs and improving IT infrastructure are of course worthwhile reasons for deploying the cloud. But it’s important that the public sector understands that benefits go beyond this. Users of public sector services will inevitably change in their demands, and it’s up to the organisations themselves to keep up with this. The cloud should be one of the first places to turn to when looking to spearhead innovation, and public sector employees need to maintain a dialogue with those at board-level to highlight its potential. Our research found that much of the public sector is lagging behind in its cloud journey; and improving its perception can be the first stage in giving it a boost.

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