Andrew Maybin looks at how local government’s sluggish adoption of the platform can be improved.
G-Cloud, the government platform aimed at streamlining public sector procurement, has grown steadily since its creation in 2012. While it is still a long way short of meeting its target of accounting for 50 per cent of all government IT spend by 2015, it had generated £591m of sales by April 2015.
Yet the government’s own G-Cloud performance dashboard shows that just £35.9m (6.1 per cent) of the spend has been made by local authorities. If G-Cloud is to be a success, local government will have to come along for the ride – so what can be done to increase uptake?
1. Enforced G-Cloud spending
The relative lack of interest among local authorities at present is probably due to G-Cloud being perceived as a central government initiative for central government departments.
While in that context, stipulation from Whitehall that a percentage of local authority IT spending must be done via G-Cloud is unlikely to be well received, that might be what is needed to get the ball rolling. A sliding scale with an agreed end date might do the trick.
With that bone of contention out of the way, let’s look at what local authorities themselves can do.
2. Build efficient, cloud-based IT delivery into the organisation’s DNA
Enthusiasm for G-Cloud adoption needs to come from a local authority’s executive team. They don’t need the technical knowledge, just a willingness to challenge the current way of doing things and support the head of IT in a ‘cloud-first’ strategy. Against that backdrop, G-Cloud becomes the obvious route.
3. Set clear goals
‘Moving to the cloud’ isn’t strategic enough on its own to push uptake among local authorities. Goals such as driving capital expenditure by x per cent, reducing power costs by £x or improving delivery time for IT improvements offer tangible reasons for adopting cloud services. Indeed,
the case for cloud is often self-evident in the context of these goals.
4. Tell IT staff they are not losing their jobs
Efficiency savings? IT department? It sounds like a recipe for redundancy, so local authority IT staff need reassurance that is not the case. This might be the most important item on this list.
G-Cloud uptake rarely results in fewer IT people. Indeed, it makes them more efficient and more important – the savings are made in the procurement process and in the reduction in infrastructure purchase and upkeep.
Failure to get this message across will result in the opportunities presented by G-Cloud being ignored or even tacitly resisted within the IT department.
5. Reimagine IT as the enabler
In the past, IT was seen as a cost and IT staff were seen as machine operators. With G-Cloud as the new tool in their repertoire, they can instead use their knowledge to make things happen and encourage more nimble ways of working, instead of just business-as-usual.
Equally, the ideas for improved ways of working via G-Cloud ought to be coming from throughout the organisation. The IT department – while also coming up with ideas – is the enabler of these new approaches.
6. Realise the futility of in-house data centres
Magnus Falk, who became the government’s first deputy chief technology officer last year, has previously told government to “get out of the data centre business”. The same applies to local government.
There is simply no way that a local authority can operate its own data centre more efficiently or more securely than any of the dozens of existing UK data centres that house the G-Cloud platform.
7. Ask citizens what they want
Local authorities’ customers are the very same people who are using the cloud in almost every aspect of their life at the moment. Talking to the public will give councils a fresh look at how they might operate in new ways. Indeed, local authorities could be running competitions in which people pitch online service delivery ideas.
The same applies to the local digital community – why not tap into their knowledge to see how they would do things differently? Again, a competition for local app developers, web agencies and software developers could generate invaluable feedback. In both cases, the
winning idea could then be delivered by G-Cloud.
8. Start small
The beauty of G-Cloud is the low cost and lack of commitment. You don’t need strategic investment or a 10-year plan. Local authorities can start on a modest project, try out ideas and see where they lead. Prepare to be surprised.
9. Share information better
This is partly down to us G-Cloud suppliers needing to be a bit more evangelical about G-Cloud’s virtues. Equally, local government bodies and particularly local government IT trade organisations could seek suppliers out to speak at their conferences to help members get a better sense of what G-Cloud is all about.
Andrew Maybin is the managing director of digital infrastructure and web hosting firm Tibus, which supplies cloud services via G-Cloud.