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The government needs to do more to emphasise the benefits of using the G-Cloud framework to local authorities, according to Eduserv, as its research shows a quarter of councils’ procurement policies do not support the use of it.
The public sector-focused, not-for-profit IT provider fired off Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to 418 of the UK’s local authorities, asking for details of their cloud strategy and whether or not it supports the use of G-Cloud. In total, just nine councils failed to respond to Eduserv’s questions.
The initiative’s aim is to gauge the pervasiveness of the UK government’s cloud-first rhetoric within local authorities to see what impact, if any, it has had on the IT procurement habits of local councils.
While central government departments are mandated to take a cloud-first approach to IT procurement, and expected to justify their use of on-premise technologies, no such mandate exists at local government level.
Clouding the issue
The findings, published in Eduserv’s Up In The Air: The State of Cloud Adoption in Local Government in 2016 report, revealed that just over a third (39%) of councils have a formal IT cloud strategy, and little more than a quarter (27%) claim their procurement policies do not support the use of G-Cloud. A further 3% also confessed to not knowing what their council's stance on using it is.
Smaller councils seem particularly resistant to using G-Cloud, suggested Eduserv’s research, with 21% of the 100 largest councils lacking a formal policy to support the framework, compared with 37% of the top 100 smallest authorities.
Half of all the councils who took part in the exercise said they do use cloud in some form or other, suggesting they rely on alternative procurement routes to acquire off-premise services and technologies.
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“We found that cloud is being used by half of local authorities, but we also found a widespread absence of IT strategies and policies which support its adoption among the majority of smaller councils, and half of the largest ones,” stated the report.
“Smaller organisations in any sector often have the most to gain from cloud, to reduce IT cost, increase resilience, gain easy access to sophisticated IT solutions and ensure flexibility and responsiveness in IT use. Yet only a minority of smaller local authorities appear to have got to grips with the role cloud might play in their future business plans.”
Taking a cloud-first approach
Speaking to Computer Weekly, the report’s author and Eduserv principal analyst, Jos Creese, said mandating a cloud-first policy within local government may help, but could prove difficult to implement.
“Is the cloud-first policy a sensible one for local government? In my view yes, but how it should be applied has to reflect the legacy application estates of each council, the priorities of the organisation, the differences in demography, geography and a range of other policy issues,” he said.
The way G-Cloud is marketed to local authorities also needs to be addressed, added Creese, to help procurement chiefs and CIOs see how much easier, and often cheaper, using the framework can be compared with other methods of acquiring IT.
“It would be helpful for G-Cloud not to be seen as a central government tool, but as a pan-government service, with the language, the case studies and the support offered around it reflecting this,” he said.
“Without being critical of G-Cloud, in the past there have been elements in how G-Cloud works that [some may feel] reflects the priorities of Whitehall more, and I would like to ensure it is seen as having universal benefit to the whole public sector, while being sold and managed in that way, accordingly.”
This is of particular note as so many local authorities appear reluctant to stop using the tried and tested frameworks they have always relied on for IT procurement, continued Creese.
“The trick is to make it clear that G-Cloud is a valid, acceptable and preferred route for procuring rather than either having many complex and tailored solutions, or simply doing what we’ve always done in the past,” he said.
“My experience of working with IT professionals is that they’re always looking for the easiest and best route to procure what they want to procure.”