Will Public Sector IT Be Put On Hold Until May's General Election?

Mar 02, 2015

Thursday 7th May will mark one of the most unpredictable elections in modern times and with just 65 days to go, it will be interesting to see how the story develops.  But while many are already looking ahead to May, there still remains more than three months of activity and I would urge public sector teams to use this time to their advantage. Particularly when we consider the digital development of government and public sector services, there is still work to be done as we ramp up to the election.

Despite some great examples of how the public sector could achieve vast savings through digitisation of processes and IT systems, challenges in the sector continue to hold back innovation, particularly when compared with the private sector. Most recently, a joint study by McKinsey and Oxford University found that the public sector needs to take its digital transformations deeper, beyond the provision of online services through e-government portals and into the broader business of government itself. I would urge public sector not to lose sight of these savings and, rather than holding off on IT implementations and project sign off, use the remaining time to continue digital strides forward, to ensure they’re prepared for whatever outcome May brings.

In my opinion, there are two key points which public sector IT teams should pursue in the run up to the election:

 

1)      Consolidation, cost and cloud

The public sector has faced many cuts in recent years, both in budgets and personnel, but there are still opportunities for further savings through sensible IT procurement decisions. Making better use of suppliers and cheaper access to infrastructure, particularly the public cloud with non-sensitive data, cutting down on expensive infrastructure and sharing services between public sector organisations could lead to substantial savings. By genuinely looking at how IT and services can be deployed through innovative and often more cost effective means, public sector teams can deliver secure services, without long term implementations or significant CAPEX spend. 

Consolidation still offers a huge opportunity for the public sector. Legacy systems and IT processes are still in place for a significant number of organisations, but it has been fantastic to see teams such as the DVLA, the Cabinet Office and HMRC looking into smarter and more efficient ways of running processes and working with citizens. From conversations which I’ve had with our partners in the public sector recently, the Cloud First strategy, aimed at ensuring  our public sector services are agile and able to deploy a range of digital services, quickly and securely, is finally seeing significant traction, something which is exciting to see embraced.

 

2)      Security

Application security, identity and access are still terms which raise certain concerns within the public sector. Tales of laptops left on trains or security breaches leading to citizen data loss is not something any organisation wants to face, and news last summer that a third of public sector organisations have been hit by DDoS attacks reflects the real threat that exists. But there are straightforward measures which can be taken to ensure the public sector is protected. In fact, a whole range of security services are available to protect public services against threats such as DDoS attacks and to ensure that applications and data are shielded from malicious attacks. With solutions in the market which offer these types of security services on a subscription basis, without locking organisations into lengthy agreements, there really is no excuse for the public sector not to be prepared for the threats of our modern world.

Rather than waiting for change in the summer, the public sector should see the quiet before the storm as an opportunity to ensure their processes are in place to navigate the digital future and put in place measures such as DDoS protection as-a-service and cloud strategies, without having to commit to large upfront costs or long term contracts.

The way in which consumers and businesses engage is increasingly digital and their expectations are rising. In order to ensure it is equipped to keep up with the private sector and the citizens they provide for, the public sector must keep moving to innovate for the future. We’re starting to see more long term projects coming to an end, while the government has shown a clear commitment to becoming more digital and agile. Now is the time for public sector leaders to take things into their own hands, rather than waiting for the public to make their decision in May. 

by David Warburton, Field Systems Engineer for Central Government and Defence, F5 Networks

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