October 11, 2020
This article originally appeared in Federal News Network, October 9, 2020.
State and local governments remain committed to providing an environment where their constituents live well and businesses and organizations thrive. These goals, however, are challenged by the reality of the pandemic’s impact on the economy, where budgets are leaner.
While simply cutting costs may seem like an attractive — and simple — short-term answer to immediate shortfalls, that strategy ultimately creates risk to core government functions and services. Post-pandemic, the possibilities of natural disasters, seasonal storms and cyberattacks still loom. That’s why a focus on excising inefficiencies, rather than slashing resources, is a smarter approach to long-term sustainability.
A common source of waste, in terms of staff time, cost and productivity are the legacy, on-premise IT systems still in place at many government agencies. The Office of Management and Budget has reported that federal agencies spend 71% of their IT budgets maintaining these aging systems. Aside from the costs of continuing to support these systems, there are myriad underlying inefficiencies, reduced productivity and security issues associated with running antiquated systems.
So how can governments save time, extract more value from existing resources, and engage employees in more productive, value-added work?
Maximize cloud-based tools
In looking at cloud deployment, IT managers should look at all possible costs, not just straight financials, of what it takes to maintain on-premise equipment vs. moving to the cloud. By moving back-office applications to the cloud, government IT leaders can streamline financial and procurement processes, ensure the right employees are hired and trained, and optimize asset maintenance and performance. All of this not only saves costs, but also offers an efficient, secure, retail-like experience that citizens, businesses and employees increasingly expect.
Additionally, government IT departments can leverage cloud deployment to enable both behind-the-scenes automation and monitoring of business processes, as well as constituent-facing technologies such as online and mobile capabilities for requesting service, reporting issues, and paying bills. It also enables new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things to deliver dramatic improvements in everything from asset maintenance to procurement.
Reduce IT maintenance
An organization’s approach to resilience must include the ability to get online again quickly if and when a disruption occurs. Cloud deployment decreases, or even eliminates, the need for on-premise infrastructure and frees up IT staff from the often-menial tasks around application and system maintenance and trouble-shooting. Instead, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model running in the cloud provides continuous technical upgrades. The cloud provider is responsible for ongoing maintenance and continuous updates, leaving agency employees to focus on strategic technology plans and long-term IT roadmaps. The organization is assured it has the latest version of needed technologies, while a satisfied staff is less likely to resign or retire, and readily available should a disruption occur.
Break down silos
It is essential to create bridges across systems within and outside the organization, enabling access to disparate data to improve performance and streamline costs of service. IT staff can leverage the scalability of cloud infrastructure to reduce or eliminate silos created by legacy systems that no longer communicate between departments. The result is improved, more informed decision making.
Modern cloud solutions offer innovative business applications and unbridled business intelligence and analytics for more insightful strategic planning. With more flexibility and virtual accessibility, a government agency can opt to have some or all of the modern technology managed by a provider and reap the benefits of a continuously upgraded environment. When state and local governments reduce costs and risks by migrating to a secure cloud platform, they are on the road to achieving maximum resiliency and optimized service to citizens and staff.
Robert St. Ledger is director of Industry Solutions at Infor.