Slow-and-steady approach will help stretched agencies go cloud: Ovum

By GovTechReview Staff
Wednesday, 16 January, 2013

Governments are struggling to win in a game of ‘ICT snakes and ladders’ that is preventing many from taking advantage of new developments in cloud computing, a research report from analyst firm Ovum has warned.

Analysing a series of audit reports of government ICT projects, Ovum analyst Dr Steve Hodgkinson found that many government agencies were unable to “sustainably develop strong ICT capabilities” due to unchangeable constraints on resources, funding, and skills.

“Demands on most agencies are perpetually in excess of their resources and capabilities,” Hodgkinson cautioned. “Even though aggregate ICT spend has risen year on year in most jurisdictions, ICT capabilities are spread too thinly across governments’ diverse needs and fragmented, constantly changing organisation structures.”

Despite the hopes of many that they would improve resource availability and efficiency, in-house shared services have proved not to be a panacea; high-profile shared-services disasters in numerous jurisdictions have proved this categorically.

“The shared service provider is in the ‘no win’ position of being stuck with old and inflexible technology in a closed internal market,” Hodgkinson said. “Shared services struggle to compete with the pace investment and innovation in the wider competitive ICT market — where multi-tenant cloud services are emerging as the state-of-the-art way for a single service provider to meet the needs of a large and diverse customer base.”

If cloud is the answer, then, how can agencies overcome inertia to reap the benefits of this shift?

Hodgkinson recommends that government agencies address the problem by taking an iterative approach to cloud services. First, he said, agencies should incorporate cloud services within the agency’s ICT strategy — and then find out what cloud services are available from enterprise vendors with which the agency already has a relationship.

Once these relationships have been extended, agencies should analyse application and data portfolios to identify cloud-services opportunities; this shifts the focus to information and the need to manage it, rather than lower- level concepts around technology and software. Agencies can then test out a few applications or services and see how well the cloud model suits their own requirements.

Throughout the process, Hodgkinson warns that agencies need to ensure they’re maintaining attention to enterprise-grade compliance requirements. Points to consider here include:

  • Assurances on compliance with process quality and security standards
  • Assurances on compliance with information privacy and public record obligations
  • Access to routine external audit reports
  • Strong data encryption reflecting different categories of data protection
  • Onshore storage and/or replication of data in Australia
  • Assurances on how data will be made available or deleted on service termination.

The choice of provider can be essential here, since high-end providers may be better prepared to meet reliability and security requirements.

With those requirements met, agencies can proceed with confidence to trial cloud solutions and proactively identify potential areas for data and information management improvement.

"Cloud services create both the imperative, and the opportunity, for agencies to focus on information and data rather than technology and software,” Hodgkinson said. “Agencies need to understand and document their information management landscape....then get on the front foot to rationalise data repositories and information management arrangements in anticipation of a move to inhouse and cloud- sourced applications.” – David Braue

This feature originally appeared in the February/March 2012 issue of Government Technology Review. Dr Steve Hodgkinson presented at the Cloud Computing Forum 2012 conference in Canberra.

The Cloud Computing Forum 2013 will be held at Rydges Lakeside, Canberra on 20 and 21 February 2013. Click through for more information, or to register.

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