Public sector cloud adoption: How Covid-19 is shaping take-up

In this guest post, Ryan Oakes, managing director of Accenture’s global public sector practice, on how the pandemic has influenced the pace and shape of public sector cloud adoption.

Looking back on the past year and a half, it’s clear the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic marks a watershed moment for public sector cloud adoption. As in so many other areas, the pandemic has acted as an accelerator for public sector cloud adoption and compressed many years’ worth of change into a matter of months.

Findings from Accenture’s multi-country report on public sector cloud adoption back this up, with 45% of the public sector leaders who participated in it confirming their organisation had established a cloud centre of excellence in the past year. Meanwhile, 20% said they started using multi-cloud technology for the first time, while cloud is viewed as essential to fuel innovation and new business models by 83% of public sector respondents.

However, in most respects the public sector cloud journey is just getting into gear. For a start, respondents identified significant barriers to progress, such as resource constraints, technical debt, security concerns and skills gaps.

Many public sector organisations are only beginning to realize the value of the cloud. For example, 24% of the respondents to the Accenture survey said they’re unsure whether they’ve been able to use multi-cloud deployments to their fullest potential. Just 33% strongly agree that their organisation has significantly reduced the cost of operations through the cloud.

In the post-pandemic era of accelerated digital transformation, public sector agencies are looking to overcome these challenges and ensure their cloud-led digital transformation efforts measurably improve outcomes and services. How can this be achieved?

The cloud continuum

Part of the solution is to view cloud migration as an ongoing evolution rather than a “one-and-done” process. The move to cloud is a continuum including a dynamic process of identifying best viable opportunities and adapting. Benefits of advancing along the future-proofing cloud continuum include expanding organizational abilities to deliver the next-generation of personalised and responsive public services.

For some organisations, envisioning their cloud journey beyond migration to address higher-value activities in this way may feel intimidating, as it challenges creativity and organisational ambitions and traditional mindsets, yet it is essential to unlocking the full benefits of the cloud.

To help public sector agencies develop a cloud strategy along these lines, here are four key strategic guidelines and practices.

  1. Deeply understand the power of the cloud continuum and what it can do for your organisation and the environment. Define a clear, outcomes-based vision and ensure that new IT structures serve business goals at each stage of the cloud journey. Given the multitude of possibilities the continuum has to offer, creating and following such a roadmap is vital to keep different parts of an agency moving in a unified way toward the desired strategic outcomes.
  2. Establish standard practices to support ongoing adoption of new technologies and operating models. To take full advantage of the speed, security and savings that ecosystem partners such as cloud hyperscalers have to offer, agencies should establish standard practices for data governance and ensure their operating model is conducive to assessing and managing external cloud resources and partnerships.
  3. Prioritise experiences for citizens and the workforce. Cloud technology opportunities should be inspiring agencies to reimagine and transform how they operate, support the workforce and serve citizens to unlock greater long-term value and improved outcomes. Agencies that focus on the “human” component of cloud adoption can expand positive experiences for employees, improving retention and inspiring program innovations, in turn leading to better services for citizens.
  4. Recognize the cloud continuum requires continuous commitment from leadership. Today’s cloud offerings give public service agencies the chance to shift their focus away from bearing down on costs and toward a mindset of abundance where experimentation, innovation, and continual improvement efforts truly flourish. Engagement and commitment from organisational leaders in fostering this mindset is key to advancing on the cloud continuum. To create and embed a mindset of expanding possibilities and improving agency outcomes, leadership is essential to establish high-level objectives and to achieve agility and innovation.

Responding to the pandemic, many public service agencies acted with laudable agility; adopting technologies at pace and reinventing how they operated. The task now is to carry this innovative spirit beyond the crisis and continue to transform through the cloud.

As more legacy systems migrate from mainframes and applications are modernised, the next wave of government innovation should leverage new cloud-based technologies including artificial intelligence, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver better employee experiences and citizen services. Agencies that commit now to continuous reinvention in the cloud will be at the forefront of that next generation of public service delivery.

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