Government cloud adoption hit by ongoing legacy tech investments

IT supplier Eduserv wants government departments banned from investing in legacy tech to drive up cloud adoption

The UK government should stop departments investing further in legacy, on-premise technologies if a viable cloud alternative is available, a report from Eduserv recommends.  

Despite the government making a concerted effort to drive departmental take-up of cloud technology through championing the G-Cloud procurement framework and the introduction of its cloud-first strategy in March 2013, it seems some departments still need convincing about the benefits of off-premise services.

That’s according to research commissioned by not-for-profit, public sector-focused IT provider Eduserv, which featured input from 100 senior government professionals.

Its findings revealed that, while 87% of respondents cited improved service delivery as the IT benefit they’d most like to achieve in 2015, and 49% said they believed cloud technologies could help, adoption is still happening at a very gradual pace.

This is also despite respondents recognising that moving to the cloud could help them respond better to peaks and troughs in demand for services (47%), cut IT infrastructure costs (43%) and make it easier for them to take advantage of remote-working practices (43%).

Ivan Harris, chief strategy officer for managed cloud services at Eduserv, told Computer Weekly that progress in this area is being hampered by skill shortages and government departments not having a clear enough idea about how to move to the cloud.

However, Harris warned that time is running out for departments as financial pressures continue to bite.

“The time for patience is running out. Local authorities have to shave off 30% of their spend over the next two to three years, and central government has to do similar,” he said. “Individual departments have to create a burning platform and set a very clear agenda for change.”

Forcing a change

The “burning platform” phrase used by Harris refers, in part, to a recommendation made in the report about how to force government departments to ditch their legacy, on-premise technologies.

It advocates imposing limits on how much departments can invest in ongoing support for their legacy technology, if a cloud-based alternative is available.

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“This means stop adding new features and functionality, pausing hardware and software refresh programmes and – whenever an opportunity exists – terminating contracts early or renegotiating hard,” the report states.

However, giving departments a deadline and telling them they need to stop using a certain piece of legacy technology may not be enough to bring about change on its own, Harris warned.

This approach, he added, needs to be accompanied by a compelling business case that sets out what the department and its users stand to gain from moving off-premise.

“For example, the message should be, ‘this is how we’re going to allow people to deliver front-end services more effectively, instead of being tied up doing paperwork’, and really talk up gains in business agility and the improved level of service this will bring,” he said.

“Then you move the discussion on to the technology that’s needed to enable all of this.”

Cloud tips from private sector

Harris also advised government departments to look to what the private sector is doing in the cloud, as their strategies and approaches tend to be a little way ahead of what’s going on in the public sector.

“Private sector organisations have to compete with their peers, and perhaps the government ought find some way of building in competition between departments to drive up cloud adoption, perhaps around departmental budgets or by linking the budgets they have received to some sort of demonstration that they have changed,” he added.

That being said, cost-cutting is just one of a number of benefits the cloud provides, so there could be other targets put in place focusing on agility or productivity, Harris suggested.

“We have to build that burning platform and competition into government so that they become elective adopters of cloud, because we need to build a culture where people want to do it because they appreciate the benefits it can bring, and not just because they’re being told to.”

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