Is the cloud-first future here?

January 03, 2022 by Meredith Trimble

Is the cloud-first future here?

In 2021, historic federal investments in pandemic relief and infrastructure improvements provided a unique opportunity for governments to transform their technology in ways that make important services more accessible, sustainable, and equitable.

These opportunities continue in 2022. To take full advantage, however, government leaders must address a longstanding roadblock. "The biggest challenge in change is invariably overcoming the inertia of how we’ve always done things," says Jeff Puckett, chief operating officer of Tyler Technologies, in GovTech’s new resource, "A New Vision for Government Transformation."

Overcoming Interia

Overcoming inertia will require public sector leaders including government CIOs to work with their counterparts to build a comprehensive roadmap for transformation. "When you make an investment and implement new technology, it’s not just the features and functions," Puckett says. "How are you going to engage with citizens? How will you deal with data and analytics to get the insights to make decisions, and how will you share information with your counterparts? When CIOs talk to their stakeholders, they need to broaden their vision."

The Power in the Cloud

That vision expands by leveraging the power of cloud-based solutions that are purpose-built for government, connecting siloed departments to gain new insights from data and embracing strategies that give residents broader and more convenient access to vital services. It’s an approach enabling governments to navigate current and future challenges — and address complex issues in new ways.

“These are big challenges, but they also create big opportunities — and that’s where we are now,” Lynn Moore, president and CEO of Tyler Technologies, says. “The public sector has traditionally lagged, but I think we’re at an inflection point where the need for transformation is going to be a driving force.”

Core Principles of Transformation

Coming out of a pandemic context and looking ahead to what’s next, “government agencies must refocus around how they can make their operations smarter and more sustainable than they were 18 months ago,” says Moore.

As explained in the GovTech piece, moving forward on critical government transformation will require strategies encompassing three core principles:

  1. Building systems with equity in mind: Ensuring access and broadening the reach of government programs must be core components of digital services strategies.
  2. Adopting purpose-built, agile solutions: Technologies like the cloud are vital to improve flexibility and responsiveness, but these solutions must be designed to meet unique public sector needs.
  3. Ensuring sustainability in the face of future challenges: Governments must replace multi-year capital projects and on-site computing infrastructure with modern approaches that reduce overhead expenses, make budgeting more predictable, and strengthen business continuity

Shifting to a cloud-based approach supports these IT modernization efforts. For leaders looking to translate this into more practical terms, cloud-based technology solutions help governments enhance operations, become more agile and secure, improve service, and solve problems.

More is Possible

Why does this matter? Simply put, more is possible in the cloud. Cloud benefits include more predictable budgets, reduced IT infrastructure expenses, enhanced security and disaster recovery, and easier compliance with federal standards like CJIS. Cloud solutions also enable departments to use data as a strategic asset in the design, management, and delivery of innovative programs and services. These solutions create better connections between departments, across agencies and jurisdictions, and with citizens.

To that last point, effectively connecting governments to each other and connecting citizens to government is done best in the cloud. This is important, as the cloud enables governments to realize the promise of the Connected Communities Vision, a long-term technology strategy that serves department and user needs through a common digital foundation.

This foundation integrates workflow, tasks, and processes, and strengthens information sharing across multiple departments so government leaders and staff have the ability to easily communicate, collaborate, and make data-driven decisions. When technology connects data, people, and processes across agencies and geographic boundaries, government becomes more transparent and responsive, and safer, stronger communities result.

Cloud-based government solutions that support connected communities’ capabilities and outcomes look like this:

  • Transparency and open data initiatives
  • Government e-services that the public and vendors can access through web and mobile apps and portals
  • Interoperability and data-sharing between departments and across jurisdictions
  • Improved insights from easily surfaced and accessible data

These transform the way the public sector works internally and with the public.

The future is here.

Moving to the cloud is certainly a trend in the public sector. As GovTech notes, “State and local public sector agencies have long been making a move to ‘cloud first’ and now ‘cloud smart’ strategies.” A 2019 NASCIO state CIO survey found that 34% of IT leaders had a cloud migration strategy in place, and 51% had a strategy in development. “COVID-19 has opened up the throttle on those efforts,” continued the piece.

In states, counties, cities, and school districts, cloud-enabled solutions are already improving software installation, upgrades, and support. For all types of government software users, the cloud is already offering monetary savings, enhanced flexibility, connectivity, mobility, security, and scalability. These benefits manifest themselves differently according to a department’s mission and constituency. In public administration, for instance, enterprise resource planning and civic services cloud-based solutions have most recently enabled remote work and met increased community engagement needs. Self-service portals, remote payroll access, mobile apps, digital workflows, and data and insights are examples. Digital workflows and remote capabilities are important to schools as well. In that environment, the benefits are seen in managing absences and substitutes, capturing accurate attendance, or optimizing bus routes.

As states, cities, and counties are already demonstrating, the cloud has the capacity to push the public sector beyond modernization and into real transformation. This transformation will optimize pandemic-driven advancements, enable the Connected Communities vision, and result in real-world solutions to some of society’s most pressing issues.

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