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Public sector cloud use still too focused on ‘low-hanging fruit’ IT projects, finds research

Public sector cloud adoption continues to rise, but wide-scale digital transformation success remains elusive, claims Cloud Industry Forum research

Public sector cloud adoption rates continue to rise, but few departments and agencies are manging to achieve meaningful digital transformation, research suggests.

According to the Cloud Industry Forum’s (CIF) seventh annual report into public sector cloud use, it appears the majority of organisations are yet to move beyond using off-premise services to address small-scale, relatively easy projects.

The report, co-commissioned by CIF and public sector cloud provider UKCloud, claims lack of leadership and low-level cloud skills in the public sector is to blame, and is preventing wide-scale digital transformation projects from occurring.

Vanson Bourne, which compiled the report, said 40% of respondents cited budgetary constraints as a reason as to why their move to cloud has slowed, while 24% blamed skill shortages.

“The data indicates that many of the migrations that we have seen to date in the public sector have targeted the so-called low hanging fruit – typically virtualised applications that can simply and easily be shifted into the cloud,” said Simon Hansford, CEO at UKCloud.

“While this is a good start, to unlock the full potential of cloud and digital transformation, organisations need to tackle the complexity inherent in many processes, overcome the cultural barriers to adoption and seek to breach departmental silos.”

This will require public sector organisations to adopt agile working practices that are conducive to cloud-native service delivery, Hansford added, for departments to reap all the benefits of using off-premise technologies.

While the research reports an overall 20% year-on-year percentage point rise in the number of public sector organisations that have formally adopted cloud to 82%, actual use of off-premise cloud remains shallow, it concluded.

Read more about public sector cloud adoption

CIF CEO Alex Hilton said this is despite the on-going efforts of the Government Digital Service (GDS) to accelerate the use of off-premise services across the public sector.

“Public sector organisations tend to find moving to the cloud a more complex challenge than their counterparts in the private sector,” he said. 

“Long-standing and heavy investments in legacy technology can be obstacles to rapid adoption, while a lack of appropriate funding and a shortage of people with the right skills to manage cloud services act as a significant brake on progress.

“These obstacles must be navigated and addresses as a priority if the public sector is to progress and make a lasting break with old ways of working,” he added.

The publication of the report comes hot on the heels of CIF announcing the creation of a special interest group to support cloud providers who want to make in-roads into public sector cloud deals.

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The CIF and UKCloud have hit the nail on the head in their analysis of this research. While those in the public sector might cite budget constraints, an aversion to risk and not having access to skilled staff as reasons for holding back cloud adoption, the real barrier is something else entirely – it is people and culture.

As Simon Hansford put it, the public sector needs to “overcome the cultural barriers to adoption” to unlock the full potential of the cloud. We have seen this in every public-sector transformation project we have worked on.

Digital transformation requires organisations to adopt a cloud-first approach in the way they work, not just in the way they buy. Cloud adoption is much more than buying a cloud application and turning it on. It requires a fundamental change to the culture of the organisation. If the public sector is going to drastically change the way its people work, it needs their support. Without it cloud adoption will remain superficial in the public sector, and it will fail to yield the cost and efficiency benefits of thecloud.

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