Following the publication of the government’s Transformation Strategy earlier this year, there is a renewed focus on delivering IT efficiency. The new strategy sets out how UK government aims to further harness digital technologies, skills and tools - with the goal of transforming public service delivery and redefining the relationship between citizen and state.
Central to this is a commitment to addressing legacy IT across the sector and in light of this, Sungard Availability Services commissioned an iGOV survey to investigate the plans organisations have in place to review or replace legacy systems and infrastructure while also exploring data management practices.
Some 123 individuals from 118 organisations representing a broad cross-section of roles across the public sector participated in the survey. Respondents work for central and local government, education, healthcare, housing associations, charities and the emergency services.
The research showed over half of organisations surveyed have made some progress in delivering their digital transformation programme, including the adoption of some digital approaches. Just 3% of participants say they have adopted digital approaches organisation-wide, while a further 3% have not even started their journey towards digital transformation and 20% are in the early stages.
As you might expect, the majority of respondents typically shared data with internal departments (91%), with a further 80% sharing with other public sector or government organisations and just over 50% sharing with third party service providers. However, the main barrier to sharing data is security concerns, with difficulties integrating services across platforms and/or infrastructure also cited as being significant contributors.
In fact, 75% of participants say successful integration of new and legacy systems or applications is a complicated process. It is widely considered that multi-agency working is paramount to the effective delivery of services but clearly, more needs to be done to remove the barriers to sharing data and facilitating easier integration.
Almost three-quarters (73%) of participants are confident their organisation is prepared to respond to a system outage or disaster. However, a further 25% said they were only ‘somewhat confident’. In the event of this happening, over half of organisations surveyed recover data and systems via a secondary data centre.
Sixty-eight percent of participants have a strategy in place to implement back-office digital and IT transformation as a means of delivering increased efficiency.
Local government challenges
Looking at local government in particular, Sungard AS has identified five specific obstacles to digital transformation:
- The existence of many disparate, isolated, bespoke and in some cases, unknown systems
Although ‘Cloud First’ is the way forward, it is clear many local government organisations have a myriad of legacy systems, hardware and technology, some of which are easy to migrate to the cloud and others more costly to move so likely to be replaced. Organisations need to consider carefully how digital transformation can transform their services, when they should embrace it, and crucially only in the areas where it is justified. Making the right call is essential.
- Local government as a whole is often at different stages of modernisation
The explosive growth of information and data combined with the proliferation of interfaces/devices has led to some councils adopting elements of modernisation and transformation but it is not a consistent approach. Unsurprisingly, our survey found that 75% of participants view integration of legacy ICT systems as a very difficult process.
- The need to avoid disruption of crucial citizen services
Many organisations are seeking to transform how frontline services are delivered through the use of new technologies, platforms and innovations. However, the real challenge is ensuring there is minimal or no impact on delivery as a consequence.
Citizens promised a 24/7 service expect to receive a 24/7 service – and at the same time, be assured that the services are secure.
- Data security, cyber threats and privacy concerns
It is evident from recent high profile IT security breaches that security must be established at all layers – in fact, data security should be at the core of all service creation, adoption, implementation and delivery. It is therefore encouraging to see that data is given the biggest priority by local government organisations today.
- The need to enhance aversion to risk
Risk management should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds ensuring it is considered crucial to your IT strategy and wider business considerations. Both stakeholders and strategy owners have real and perceived risks that, at best, can cause delays in digital transformation and at worst, halt the progress altogether.