It has been seven years since the UK government shifted to a ‘Cloud First’ strategy and it has been eight years since the launch of the G-Cloud framework, which helped launch a cloud buying revolution in Whitehall.
However, despite these efforts and almost a decade of ‘cloud education’, it seems that UK public sector buyers are still grappling with many of the same issues that they were back then.
This week UKCloud, one of the cloud vendors to have grown significantly as a result of the government’s cloud policy and action, has launched its State of Cloud Adoption report for 2020, which sought views from hundreds of public sector buyers across the UK.
And in it the survey highlights that buyers are still in search of the ‘perfect cloud solution’ (spoiler: it doesn’t exist) and are continuing to have to navigate challenges that include policy, skills and budgets.
Commenting on the report, Alex Hilton, Chief Executive at the Cloud Industry Forum, said:
We have been monitoring the adoption of cloud-based services across the UK for the past ten years. We have seen unprecedented change take place in that time, with many companies now realising the potential of cloud services helping them fulfil their digital transformation goals.
These journeys may have started a long time ago, but they are far from over: rapidly evolving business challenges mean that diversity and collaboration are necessary to move forward. A cloud led strategy must be at the heart of any digital transformation.
The majority of organisations indicated that they would move their IT to the cloud if the ‘perfect solution’ existed - 87.2% in fact. However, the survey notes that achieving this ‘perfect solution’ inevitably comes with a whole host of both business and technical challenges.
As a side note, interestingly 85.5% of respondents said that they would prefer a multi-cloud vendor and fewer than 1 in 5 have a policy to only use a single cloud.
But there appears to be a mixed narrative from buyers who on the one hand indicated that if they could mirror their existing environment in the cloud, then they would (85.2%), whilst 80.9% also noted that cloud is merely an enabler for their organisation to adopt “transformative technologies” such as AI, smart places and IoT/hyper connectivity.
However, the public sector is still struggling with a misalignment of IT budgets and what UKCloud calls ‘public cloud economics’. Some 84.5% of respondents agree that cost/affordability is the biggest impediment to cloud adoption and digital transformation. Firstly, 54% believe that cloud is more expensive than on-premises for traditional applications and secondly 47.7% find CAPEX costs easier to budget for than OPEX costs.
These are arguments that have been ongoing for years and still appear to be front of mind for buyers.
Equally, 85.2% agree that their organisation is reluctant to move workloads to the cloud due to risk and security concerns. What does that mean specifically? 72.7% agreed that compliance is an ongoing struggle, there is a fear of failure (73.7%), a fear of vendor lock-in (78.3%) and also a concern about over reliance on one sole partner (79%).
Finally, organisations also lack the skills and resource needed to both build (78.3%) and manage (77.31%) cloud-native applications.
Some 83% of respondents agreed that skills and resource levels were a major impediment to cloud adoption, rising to above 90% in regions such as the North East and Yorkshire and Humber.
79% of those surveyed agreed that “struggling to find the right professional skills hinders cloud adoption in my organisation”.
Leighton James, CTO at UKCloud, commented on the findings and said:
Whilst the survey was focused on cloud adoption, it was in the context of the amazing potential for the future of public services in the UK. Adoption of cloud begins to knock down the silos that exist across the public sector and unlock precious resources and datasets that are key to driving better insights, delivering better outcomes and harnessing the innovation made possible by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT and mixed reality.
Hence, by understanding the impediments to cloud adoption the UK GovTech community can work collaboratively to provide the diversity of solutions and skills that will help the UK develop world-class national capabilities – all based on nurturing our nation’s precious data as a national asset.
When you’ve got government Ministers regularly standing up and talking about AI and other advanced technologies (which are only possible in the cloud), it’s easy to forget that huge chunks of the public sector are still struggling with the initial steps. And so much of this is organisational, not technical. Fear of failing? Budgets? A lack of policy? Skills? Time and time again we talk about cloud in isolation - as a technology - when we should be thinking about it in the context of change in organisational structures and culture needed to succeed in a truly digital public sector organisation. I believe most buyers know they’d be better off in the cloud, I just think some don’t know how to get the confidence to get there. That’s what they need help with.