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What we learnt at CGBT

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On Wednesday we attended Central Government Business & Technology 2015 (CGBT) at The Russell Hotel in London. As part of the event, I was also given the opportunity to present one of the seminar streams alongside Chris Depledge from HP. The focus of our discussion was on whether ‘transformational cloud projects really exist in government’ and how they can be delivered using a partnership approach between suppliers and IT.

Having worked closely alongside government departments for a number of years, both Chris and I had plenty of examples of how cloud is already delivering new and innovative digital services. But we’ve both also witnessed the challenges and objections that public sector IT departments face when trying to transform services. And while there was lots of discussion during CGBT around cloud services: from public to private to hybrid cloud, one of the biggest concerns centred around how you actually transition data and applications to the cloud in the first place.

Despite the government’s ‘cloud first’ mantra, our recent research found that only 2% of public sector IT managers felt that their organisation was highly pro-cloud. Discussions at CGBT highlighted that while the public sector understands the transformational nature of cloud, they’re simply struggling to manage the transition.

One IT manager was clear in his view: “Its OK if it’s a new digital service without any legacy data or equipment – then moving to the cloud is simple and straight forward and requires less security. But it’s a different matter for established services. The complexity of solutions means the transition can take a long time.”

Discussing the transition process with CGBT attendees, it’s clear that IT managers need to focus on developing a strong and solid strategy for cloud early on. Working with partners to decide on the route – whether that’s a ‘man in a van with a SAN’ or creating an infrastructure with partners like HP that enables data and apps to sync across over a period of time – is key to a successful transition. Those partners have managed that transition over and over again so are able to bring a best practice process that helps to provide assurance.

Other conversations centred on G-cloud. While both IT managers and suppliers remain in favour of G-cloud and its ability to simplify the buying process, there were complaints that the framework’s timeframe is simply to short. IT managers at the event told us that extending the framework’s power from two to three years would provide them with the opportunity to gain improved ROI on investments made into cloud projects. For some it would simply mean more time to manage the transition into the cloud, which can take as long as nine months, before the supplier has to reapply for its place.

While cloud clearly has its place at the heart of the government’s digital services, the management of the journeys into the cloud is not just the responsibility of the in-house IT team. Success will lie with strength of relationships, experience and understanding: working together, in partnership with suppliers, vendors, users and IT really will deliver transformational cloud projects today and into the future.

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