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Digital transformation depends on cloud foundation

The migration to cloud-based services promises the public-sector dramatic gains in security, productivity and efficiency. Agencies slow to make the move to the cloud may endanger citizen service programs and stakeholder expectations that depend on a robust IT backbone.

Cloud services give agencies a way to deliver the kinds of services citizens have come to expect.  

Historically, the public sector has lagged behind the private sector in the deployment of new technologies that optimize business operations and provide better customer-focused services.  As consumer-facing technology becomes more convenient and intuitive, this service gap becomes more obvious and less acceptable to taxpayers.

Consumers and the increasingly mobile workforce demand the same connectivity and user experience when conducting municipal tasks -- such as buying a business permit or paying taxes online -- that they receive when shopping online or streaming content on Netflix. Because of these increased expectations, agencies that have not undergone digital transformation are at risk of becoming outdated and unable to meet the demands of their digitally savvy citizens.

The cloud: Better results, less cost

In 2016, the federal  government spent about 80 percent of its $80-billion IT budget maintaining legacy systems, according to former federal CIO Tony Scott. Old-style, siloed data warehouses, built on relational databases, are creating bottlenecks for agencies that need to process and deploy digital knowledge in real time. These increasingly obsolete systems are data-rich, but information poor.

More than anything, cloud transformation is a pathway to more powerful, robust IT services at lower costs. Disconnected IT solutions that are deployed in silos have become difficult and expensive to maintain, requiring patching, updates and customization. By contrast, cloud services deliver:

  • More effective management of software licenses through on-demand software.
  • Timely, centralized updates, performed by qualified software engineers.
  • Far less need for customization, freeing up in-house IT staff to deal with agency-specific issues.
  • 24/7 disaster recovery.
  • More consistent security compliance than stand-alone systems can realistically provide.

It is no wonder the move to the cloud is gaining momentum. Gartner expects the wider public-sector market for cloud services to reach $436.4 billion by 2021, with a brisk combined annual growth rate of 15.9 percent.

FedRAMP sets the standard

As agencies at all levels of government begin exploring their options for cloud functionality, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which provides authorization and certification for commercial cloud providers who serve federal agencies,  is setting the standard for the service quality, security and reliability that every public-sector organization needs and expects.

By creating rules for governance, training, information flow and responses to external influencing factors, FedRAMP reduces costly duplication of effort while providing agencies and providers access to more products and customers. FedRAMP’s approach to cloud computing has benefited many agencies faced with limited resources and shrinking budgets.  It is estimated that FedRAMP helps the public-sector save 30-40 percent in total IT implementation costs.

For some early adopters, cloud computing has provided immediate cost savings. Others have reported that cloud-enabled data analytics, digital tools and agile development helped to improve overall productivity and better equip employees to deliver services.

Agencies that have not yet set off on the road to digital transformation should get started or risk being left behind. By transitioning to the cloud, public-sector organizations will be able to increase efficiency and security at a lower cost while meeting customer expectations.

About the Author

Joe Arthur is strategy and innovation executive with Infor Public Sector.

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