Infrastructure > Cloud

Councils see cloud’s silver lining but suffer from "legacy IT hangover”

David Bicknell Published 22 March 2018

Eduserv and Socitm research shows four in five councils still run primarily with on-premise IT and only four in ten councils have a cloud IT policy or strategy


New research from not for profit company Eduserv and public sector leaders group Socitm has suggested that the demands of running legacy IT are holding back councils from putting in place new technology which can improve services and increase operational efficiency.

The suggestion comes amid the findings of the research conducted among local government IT teams and published in a joint report, “Local Government Cloud Adoption 2018”.

The research found that although the majority of councils are now using cloud, barely four in ten (40%) say they have a cloud policy or strategy in place while just under three-quarters (72%) say they can use G-Cloud to procure IT.

And while 62% of councils are now using cloud infrastructure, the rate of adoption is slow, increasing by just 10% in the two years since Eduserv conducted its last study into cloud adoption.

At the same time, the report said, the overwhelming majority of councils (81%) say they are maintaining their on-premise infrastructure. The result is that a hybrid IT model which combines cloud and on-premise technology is now most common in the sector with 64% saying their organisation deploys IT in this way.

The research found that where councils are using cloud, more are using hyper-scale public cloud (36%) than private cloud (27%).

Andy Powell, chief technology officer at Eduserv said, “Speaking to IT leaders for this research it’s clear that there is a cloud-first intent across local government and a real hunger to use the new applications and infrastructure that cloud offers in order to make a real difference to the way councils operate.

“Unfortunately, a legacy IT hangover caused by outstanding contractual obligations and the demands of maintaining or upgrading old systems so they remain fit for purpose, is slowing the rate at which councils can move forward.

To better equip their organisations for a digital future it is clear that councils need to move quickly to formalise their approach to cloud IT, educate their organisations about the business outcomes that cloud can deliver and shift focus from maintaining IT to partnering the business through that change.”

Three senior heads of ICT gave their views on cloud adoption in the report.

Stephen Vercella, head of ICT at Wiltshire Council said, “The whole idea behind moving to the cloud is that you size it for what you need and then buy additional capacity when you need it. You can’t do that without looking at your existing IT estate and identifying what you can get rid of and what you don’t want to move to the cloud.”

Aylesbury Vale District Council is one council that has markedly adopted a ‘cloud first’ IT strategy.  Its IT Strategy Manager, Maryvonne Hassall, argues that such a ‘cloud first’ strategy has played a key part in enabling the changes it wanted to make.

“The ‘cloud first’ strategy we put in place seven years ago meant that every time we looked at a new system or that an old IT system came up for renewal, we would look first at finding a suitable cloud version. This has led to the migration of the bulk of our services into the cloud. Email and line-of-business applications were prioritised first and the services and applications which were left over were moved into Amazon Web Services,” she said in the report.

“We’ve been quite aggressive in the way we have done this, compromising on some systems which were not perfect for our needs but which allowed us to move to the cloud. This has left us in a good place technically and, as a small organisation, the resilience we get from the likes of Amazon is vastly superior to what we could deliver in-house without more staff.”

For several organisations, the demands of working with legacy IT have tended to apply a brake to the pace at which organisations can adopt cloud IT. A major problem is a combination of lock-in to existing contracts and the need to maximise the value from the past investment in applications and infrastructure, as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has found.

“We are looking to adopt a cloud-based model as far as possible but we have a lot of legacy applications and a lot of long-term contracts which we can’t really seek to re-procure with something already in place,” says Marion Sinclair, head of strategy and enterprise architecture at Kensington and Chelsea, which shares services with Westminster Council.

“The approach has to be one of seeing out these contracts and then when the time to invest comes around again, you can leverage that opportunity to move forward. It’s a case of having a long-term vision which we move closer to each time we make a change.”

Martin Ferguson, director of policy and research at Socitm, said, “It’s concerning that some councils are still hesitant to adopt cloud technology, especially when you consider the benefits that come from it in terms of efficiency, productivity, modernisation, agility and unlocking legacy IT.

“I would urge local authorities to rationalise software portfolios and to put in place intelligent policies to embrace cloud offerings for the benefit of citizens.”

Copies of the report can be downloaded from this link .


(Image courtesy of Aylesbury Vale District Council)


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