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Government review of cloud-first policy concludes guidance should remain unchanged

A review into the continued relevance of the UK government’s six-year-old cloud-first policy has concluded its ‘brand recognition’ is too strong for it to be scrapped, according to GDS

A review of the UK government’s long-standing public cloud-first adoption policy has concluded that the advice should remain unchanged, despite previous concerns it had become outdated.

As revealed by Computer Weekly in May 2019, the policy – which states all central government departments must take a public cloud-first stance on all new technology purchases – was placed under review earlier this year by the procurement chiefs at the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).

Working in collaboration with the Government Digital Service (GDS), representatives from CCS said the review was being undertaken with a view to rolling out an updated piece of guidance that was more in keeping with how government departments are adopting cloud technologies.

This was in response to the realisation that many government departments were embarking on hybrid cloud setups, or were coming to realise that the public cloud-first policy might not be as applicable to them as it was when it was first introduced in 2013.

However, GDS has now confirmed the policy will remain a key part of its Technology Code of Practice, and will not be undergoing any changes.

“Now that we have finished the most recent round of user research, we can say that ‘cloud-first’ is a relevant to government today as it was when it was first introduced, and will remain a flagship technology policy,” said GDS, in a blog post announcing the development.

“Our plan, informed by user research, is to keep the policy as it stands. It’s not being revised, reissued or renamed. Instead, we’re looking at ways to better meet users’ needs around cloud, predominantly by providing more detailed guidance and support.”

In reaching this conclusion, the organisation consulted with chief technology officers (CTOs) and technical architects from 14 different civil service organisations, with GDS claiming this work immediately highlighted the continued importance of the policy.

“All of our participants understood the detail of the policy, including the fact it enables organisations to form a cloud strategy that is right for them,” the blog post continued.

“Different organisations face different sets of challenges when it comes to cloud, and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. But we found the cloud-first policy has strong brand recognition across government and that changing its name or content would not be beneficial to users.”

What is set to change, though, is the amount of support and guidance government organisations will receive when trying to work out the best approach to take when moving to the cloud to ensure they get the best value for money from their deployments, while minimising the risk of suffering from supplier lock-in.

To this end, GDS and CCS have jointly created a working group to, as they put it, “explore how we can help users balance technical and commercial requirements when procuring cloud solutions”.

This work will result in the creation of guidance, in collaboration with users and the Technology and Digital Leaders’ Network, which will be made available to users within the coming months, GDS confirmed.

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