All posts by eduservblog

The One Public Estate programme: A catalyst for public sector cloud adoption


In 2016, the One Public Estate programme will see 100 councils receive £31 million of funding in order to help them make better use of public sector property.

The idea is that local public sector bodies – from neighbouring councils to emergency services – start disposing of, or sharing, buildings in order to reduce running costs, free up property/land for redevelopment and raise money.

In a sector where money is scarce, one of the most compelling areas for potential cost savings is to close down public sector owned datacentres; an IT estate that runs on datacentres sited in council buildings is expensive for a number of reasons. Not only do they take up space – often in expensive city centre locations – that could be used for higher value activities, they also require a significant overhead cost to maintain them effectively.

Moving to third party cloud services providers, perhaps via colocation as a ‘staging’ point, frees up space whilst reducing the need for in-house teams to ‘keep the lights on’. It also allows organisations to clean up their balance sheets, remove the need for capital investment and move IT spend to a ’pay as you use’ operating expense.

The second business reason for moving to an external provider is to create an IT estate that’s suitable for the immediate digital transformation challenges and is also flexible enough to accommodate further changes which will inevitably lie ahead. An external partner can provide cloud infrastructure that scales up and down with the needs of the organisation, keeps data secure and in an environment where information can be shared by a range of partners who need to work together to plan and deliver public services.

The final reason for moving to an external provider is the opportunity to reshape in-house council IT teams to better meet the future needs of the organisation. This is a future that moves away from the old model of an in-house team that builds and operates an IT estate to one that is a service integration and management team that partners with providers to solve business problems, enable change and provide a platform strategic roadmap to support new service delivery in the longer term.

One Public Estate is an important agenda for local government in 2016 and, whether a council is in receipt of the OPE funding or not, one which provides a strong business rationale for IT teams to make their own case for moving their organisation’s IT  infrastructure away from in-house to an external provider.

How planning is the perfect tonic for avoiding the ‘cloud hangover’


If there is one shortage we will never suffer in the technology sector, it is one of attention-grabbing sound-bites.

The latest one to do the rounds is the ‘cloud hangover’. It has been coined to describe the undesirable after-effects of a move to the cloud, the most painful of which is the significant unplanned for expenditure incurred by organisations in maintenance and support of their newly acquired cloud IT.

While you may wince at the phrase, the issue is an important one for any organisation thinking about any sort of cloud adoption.

If two of the top benefits of cloud IT are flexibility and the ability to reduce costs, no IT lead wants to end up in a place where their new technology infrastructure ends up being harder to manage and costing much more than was initially planned.

The good news is in my experience such problems are easily avoided, particularly if you accept that, like its real-life equivalent, you recognise that ‘cloud hangover’ is down to a series of poor choices.

So what should organisations be thinking about?

Invest time before you invest money

The first issue to recognise is that any move to the cloud requires an investment of time to map out your needs and create a plan for migration to the cloud. This should be aligned to and prioritised against business needs. It’s at this time when you should involve suppliers to help with your thinking.

A supplier should work with you to assess the costs, risks and rewards of cloud for your organisation, they can then create an implementation strategy roadmap. Of all the investments you make, this planning phase is the most critical because it sets the context for every other choice you make.

Avoid tactical cloud adoption

It is critical to resist the temptation to implement cloud solutions on the basis that they deliver quick cost savings or because they are an easy-to-implement replacement for existing technology – unless it is part of a wider plan. Going down this road can increase complexity and increase IT siloes in your organisation, embedding unnecessary costs or leaving you with a bigger clear-up job further down the line.

The first phase of cloud migration following strategy definition and planning should focus on putting in place the right IT infrastructure to enable future flexibility and cost savings. For many organisations, this may involve a co-location arrangement as a pre-cursor a fuller cloud IT estate.

Get a plan for your data

Understanding and assessing what data you have currently, how it needs to be used and its security requirements is critical to the success of a move to cloud.

Do this piece of work up front and you will ensure you don’t pay for data being held in a security environment which is more costly than what you really need.

An IT team which can deliver

Moving to the cloud demands a team with a different set of skills from the ones you have to manage and maintain in-house IT infrastructure.

Planning for a move to the cloud is as much about people as technology. Once you have identified the IT structure that you want to put in place, then you should be scoping and shaping an internal IT function that has the capability to support it.

Managing suppliers, service level agreements, change management and project management are critical skills for cloud IT, along with strategic planning skills. Keeping the right skills in house and ensuring there is knowledge transfer from your suppliers is critical to keeping a handle on costs and activity.

In my experience, organisations that invest in planning across all of these areas upfront are best placed to avoid nasty surprises, which may otherwise come further down the line. It also helps crystalise the real cost of moving to the cloud so that forecasts for potential like-for-like savings, return on investment and total cost of ownership can be made accurately.

Read more: Report reveals public sector fighting hidden costs of cloud computing

Four key ways to overcome security concerns in the cloud

Picture credit: iStockPhoto

Ten days ago I hosted a seminar on cloud security at the Public Sector Enterprise ICT conference in London. In a show of hands at the start of the discussion, the forty or so attendees were unanimous in their agreement that the issue of security is one of the most important considerations in the journey to the cloud.

Joining me on the panel was Tony Richards, the head of security at G-Cloud and Ian Gale from Bristol City Council. The panel had some great advice about how to overcome common security concerns. Here is a summary of what they think organisations can do:

  • Build your knowledge: The Government’s policy around data and IT security has shifted considerably in the past few months. The objective is to reduce the amount of non-sensitive data which is unnecessarily over-protected and ensure that the most sensitive data is dealt with in the right way. It is essential that IT leads have a good understanding of these changes in order to shape conversations about security requirements with business managers. The guidance from the Cabinet Office is written for a non-technical audience and is a great tool for helping colleagues understand where they need to change their thinking.
  • Be a smart buyer: The release of G-Cloud 6 puts the onus on organisations to assess their security needs in order to source the right solution. This means buyers need to do the right upfront work as part of the procurement process. The first step is to understand how the security assessment process works on G-Cloud. The digital market place blog has guidance on this along with regular updates to any changes. A second area where organisations can prepare is by assessing whether they need to compliment their in-house skills to map out their security requirements and align them to the security principles.
  • Bust the ‘in-house is best’ myth: One critical area to tackle according to Bristol City Council’s Ian Gale is the perception that in-house solutions are more secure because they are controlled by the organisation. Ian pointed out it is in fact often the opposite – a supplier will invest a lot more in security than a council ever could. As G-Cloud’s Tony Richards pointed out, 60% of security breaches are internal, so working with a cloud based IT supplier shouldn’t represent additional risk.
  • Prioritise the quick wins: The last piece of advice addresses the issue of gaining confidence that cloud security can work for your organisation. Recognise that moving to the cloud isn’t a ‘big-bang’ change. It needs to be gradual migration based on the business priorities. Pick what you want to migrate, do it well and build confidence.

We’ll be looking at this issue in more depth in the coming weeks through a survey with local government and central government IT leads. If you’d like to be involved in the research, please drop me a line:

Four critical areas for G-Cloud in the next 12 months

This month saw the publication of the business plan for the GDS which lays out the focus of its work up until this time next year.

The scope of its work pipeline is impressive in its ambition and potential impact.

In digitising the top 25 most important government services by its 2015 deadline the GDS estimates it will save £979m each year.

Meanwhile, from its G-Cloud programme, it estimates that if the current rate of spend continues it will realise annual savings of around £200m by March 2015.

After being subsumed into the GDS last year it is good to see that G-Cloud has not only retained focus around driving the cloud agenda in government but the extent to which, as a relatively small part of the GDS, it is able to show that there is a compelling commercial reason for government to continue to put cloud at the heart of what it does.

But of course, there is always more that can be done. As we head out of the first year of Cloud First, this year is a critical one in driving the cloud agenda in the public sector. With that in mind here are four areas I think Tony Singleton and his team should focus on:

1)  Continue to provide vocal leadership around the role of G-Cloud –  G-Cloud is maturing in terms of supplier numbers and spend but what is still missing are the higher value transactions which are vital if it is to be seen as the definitive framework for cloud services.

As larger value contracts come up for procurement in the year ahead it is vital that G-Cloud team acts as vocal cheerleaders from within government to ensure departments are aware of and use the framework. This will be particularly important as CloudStore gets incorporated into the Digital Marketplace later this year.

2)  A better balanced set of arguments around the benefits of cloud – cost cutting has been top of the Coalition’s agenda and, as such, has ended up being positioned at the heart of the rational for cloud adoption. The focus on costs is important but risks creating a one dimensional perception of a solution whose real benefit is in its ability to transform and simplify the way the public sector operates and delivers services. 

What is needed then, is a more balanced set of arguments around the case for cloud adoption so buyers have a better understanding of business benefits beyond simple cost savings.

3)  Reducing barriers to buying  – if cheerleading and knowledge building are important, so too is the job of identifying and addressing the issues which are stopping public sector buyers engaging with cloud computing. Chief of these is how G-Cloud fits an organisation’s approach to procurement.

Building awareness of G-Cloud outside of central government, and in local government specifically, is also important. I know the G-Cloud team is starting to take action on all of these areas but it is vital that they benefit from their long term attention.

4)  Encourage government departments to talk about their success – Here at Eduserv we have delivered some great work in many parts of the public sector – from central to local government and other agencies. We’re proud of our success but it can be incredibly hard to get clients to talk publicly about what they have achieved. 

Case studies play a critical role in educating the sector, reducing perceptions of risk and providing a reference point for organisations to plan their own projects. We’d love to see more encouragement and support for government departments to talk about what they have done well and to perhaps make success stories available on CloudStore.

This, of course, is just a starting point and provides some top line areas for action. But if we make an impact on these areas I am confident that in twelve months’ time we will be able to look back on a year when CloudFirst has really made an impact on the public sector.