Local government has not been as quick to embrace the cloud as might have been expected. Here are a set of steps local authorities can take to start getting the most from cloud technologies.Posted on 21 April 2016 - G-Cloud
The first step any local authority should be taking in order to improve services via the cloud is to make the efficiency savings that come from closing in-house data centres. In 2016, there is no good reason for local government bodies to be storing and maintaining their own hosting hardware.
For price, scalability, flexibility and security, it is nigh on impossible to compete with one of the dozens of UK data centres that host services procured via the G-Cloud platform are able to offer.
There seems to be a degree of scepticism among some local authority IT buyers about using the G-Cloud system created by central government. We’re among the companies listed and we can confirm that it only encourages transparent, competitive pricing and easy, cheaper procurement processes.
Many of the apps and websites we now use on a daily basis are either intuitive enough to learn the pages or services we most frequently want to access or encourage us to provide this information. A local authority could quite easily use the cloud to add a presentation layer to its services to improve ease of access and user experience.
But, as we’ll go on to discuss, this is really a short-term fix until the right strategy is in place to tackle the complex arrangement of systems that underpin council services and really start to reap the benefits of the cloud.
There are improvements to be made with a little bit of a cloud retro-fitting, but the most significant progress will be made by adopting a cloud-first strategy going forward. The use of digital to improve your offering to customers should be part of the authority’s business model, not merely its IT strategy.
Consider the relationship between music and the cloud. The high street retailers who didn't think big enough simply started selling CDs online. Some companies have had success by selling downloads. But the real cloud-first strategy has proven to be the streaming platforms. That’s the sort of thinking needed to reimagine local authority services.
Think of the impact the cloud has had on your personal life. We all share documents, photos and other information more quickly, frequently and efficiently than we possibly could before. There are endless opportunities for local authorities to harness these capabilities to improve services.
For instance, communication between the various stakeholders involved in health and social care could be dramatically improved with the aid of the right cloud platform. Given that information-sharing in that particular field is often criticised when things go wrong, the cloud offers significant opportunities to share information easily, and prevent vital details falling between the cracks.
We’ve alluded to it already, but the cloud offers great possibilities for local authorities to improve relationships and information-sharing with other agencies. This might be between a council and emergency services, charities or even businesses - wherever there is scope for a more efficient way of working.
And while sharing information, perhaps there is also scope for sharing costs.
Collecting payments more easily and streamlining other transactions is obviously appealing for local authorities, but think about how the cloud can also be used to improve relationships. As we’ve discussed, that can be relationships between stakeholders, but also between an authority and its customers.
Housing and homelessness is one example of an area in which the cloud could really streamline current back-end processes to create something that is much more joined up and really helps the individuals in question, as well as their relationship with the authority. It could also make for stronger relationships between the authority and housing organisations, health and social care agencies, emergency services and charities.
If you fear the next must-have change is only round the corner, invest in the cloud technology to support endless and ongoing change rather than spending on a one-off transformation. Some authorities have adopted Agile development principles in order to achieve that.