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10 key steps for central government cloud supplier selection

Dominic Sumpter Profile picture for user Dominic Sumpter April 3, 2017
Eager to achieve digital transformation? Follow FinancialForce's Dominic Sumpter's 10 key steps for central government cloud supplier selection

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Digital transformation in UK central government has been reported widely, here on diginomica and elsewhere. There’s no question the desire exists to make significant change – but it can be more complicated than first appears. How can central government agencies avoid the common pitfalls and be sure to drive maximum value quickly with new cloud-based solutions?

Many of the pitfalls experienced are not uncommon for any large organization, with complex infrastructures and rigid processes to be followed, which mean getting complete buy-in from all involved in the decision process. Many central government agencies are part of other larger Departments that may own the mandate to allow change, so it is not only having the desire but also making a strong business case to those who can authorize change and the introduction of new systems.

Shared Service centre models are also used but have brought their own set of problems. This was recognised by the National Audit Office, which scrutinizes public spending for UK Parliament, and commented in one Shared Services report on 18th May, 2016:

The programme has not achieved value for money to date. The Cabinet Office has begun to find its role in leading the programme. However, the delays have meant that technology has moved on significantly. And new options should now be considered and evaluated as part of revising the programme plan.

Additional problems associated with legacy and shared service models can be summarized as:

  • High support and maintenance costs. Having to run and maintain an infrastructure to support on-premise applications is costly
  • Data silos. Typically, there can be many entry points for Master Data. Where data has to be replicated and integrated across differing technologies and platforms, that is costly in itself but causes further problems
  • Reporting. Pulling together reports to generate Key Performance Indicators against one version of the truth in real time can be highly challenging
  • Requesting change. To do something different on existing systems can be expensive and certainly not immediate

The processes used to bring in new suppliers to drive digital transformation also should be reconsidered and updated. The process which has been used for many years is hugely time draining. It involves setting up a Project Team, scoping all requirements out in minute detail, creating a large RFP (request for proposal) or first stage RFI (request for information), submitting on OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) and sitting back to wait for responses.

Many smaller providers do not have the time to spend on such detailed responses, even if they would be able to offer strong solutions to help with digital transformation. Those organizations that do find the time are often traditional large on-premise suppliers, rather than the newer and more modern generation of innovative and often native Cloud providers, meaning central government cloud supplier selection could be missing out on the best potential solutions available today. Surely simplifying the process can only serve to benefit the overall aim for digital transformation and help avoid further delays. This was the thinking behind the creation of the G-Cloud framework for procuring cloud services.

10 key steps to the cloud

In order to ensure the best possible supplier is chosen to drive digital transformation, it is essential to use a process which does not alienate today’s innovative cloud providers. These form a large proportion of potential G-Cloud approved suppliers.

Here are 10 key steps central government agencies can take:

  1. Drive sponsorship and total buy in to the Programme from the very top
  2. Have a desire to 'break the mould' to avoid missing out on new applications that give greater freedom and control. This may mean avoiding the long and detailed RFP/RFI process so smaller and more nimble providers are not excluded
  3. Acknowledge that not all current processes may be accommodated, but take a view that so long as certain key aspects of application were present, there is the option to adapt, change, modify or even do away with existing processes for sake of conformity and usability
  4. Often staff have used the same system for many previous years and hold some reluctance to change. Understand that all staff needed to be carefully introduced to change and be educated on all of the benefits in order to drive adoption and create advocacy
  5. Have a strong desire to eliminate integration points as much as possible – the utopia is to have one application cover everything! The closest that can be achieved is to select a technology platform that supports multiple functions, where common tools can be shared, common security and permissions established and common reporting tools used
  6. Have a complete realization that Cloud is not only now broadly accepted, but offers the most secure and trusted way to deploy applications anywhere in the world
  7. Educate management that true Cloud differs from other 'cloud' options. True Cloud should mean that there are no downloads needed, no infrastructure other than access to the internet, all upgrades should be part of the subscription fee, no other hidden costs – delivered as a pure service. Many suppliers from a legacy on-premise background suggest they can offer Cloud SaaS (Software as a Service) – but buyers should explore these claims fully!
  8. Understand that compromise will be needed in implementation. While Cloud suppliers have made huge leaps in functionality, in some areas they may lag behind legacy applications (which is not surprising if you consider that in some cases some legacy applications have been around for decades). The question should be asked – is all the extra functionality needed? Cloud suppliers tend to focus on the most popular needs to build into their applications, and continue to update as new popular needs arise. It is worth exploring a supplier’s clients to verify whether a supplier is the right choice
  9. Consider the selection of the right procurement route. G-Cloud offers a way to fast track and simplify procurement rules. It is also maturing as a framework vehicle and many newer and more exciting applications are likely to be found on this framework rather than older frameworks
  10. Collaborate with suppliers. Offering open and upfront discussions with some chosen suppliers is by far the most productive and fruitful engagement. Remember what you are looking to achieve and keep it simple. Isn’t an open discussion a much better way to get instant information and clarification that a supplier can help agencies achieve their goals? These are goals which are often around automation to allow minimization of manual tasks that quite often can be changed or altered to suit the application

As we’re seeing across all organizations, signing of the contract should signal the beginning of any supplier and central government agency relationship. Suppliers who are willing to partner with an agency and accompany them on their journey of change demonstrate the most commitment and flexibility to help drive success. Central government agencies should be sure to understand what happens and what is offered post sale before making their final supplier decision.

Central government agencies will all undergo digital transformation, but it is those who adopt the right process with cloud providers that will see the most benefits in the quickest timeframe.

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