Cloud computing today is an imperative for public sector organisations wanting to make governments more efficient and cities better places to live. By allowing agencies at the national or local level to reduce spending on IT infrastructure, to scale easily, and consolidate information and services into a single, integrated system, cloud computing can provide a proven advantage.

According to Gartner, by 2017, public cloud offerings will grow to account for more than 25 percent of government business services in domains other than national defence and security. Just as business leaders are choosing cloud for its economics, speed and flexibility to drive business growth, its time for governments to turn to cloud computing – hybrid, private or public – for its ability to contain costs and increase predictability.

In the US, cloud computing has the potential to reduce the federal IT budget by 25 percent according to a study by MeriTalk, PaaS or Play? Cloud’s Next Move. The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change is integrating cloud-based smart energy readers and shared meeting spaces to eliminate waste and increase productivity saving nearly $160,000 annually. In Germany, the Pension Fund Baden-Württemberg gained faster access to its pension records by 99 percent on a cloud-based system with no increase in costs

At the state level, the State of California’s CalCloud is a new public sector technology model powered by cloud computing to build and deliver more innovative government services and savings. The platform, now available to municipalities and all state and local government agencies on a subscription basis, is the first of its kind to be implemented in the United States.

At the local level, Sunderland is a mid-sized city in the United Kingdom using cloud to cut IT costs and encourage innovation. Not only are cloud services helping the city work smarter and personalise services for citizens, the city is turning their investment in cloud systems into a profit centre expected to bring in about $2.29 million annually. By collaborating with businesses who support the city in delivering services, these partner organisations are also able to access low cost, scalable cloud services while the city earns a profit and puts its excess computing capacity to work.

The rise of the cloud comes at a good time for budget-conscious public sector organisations. Rather than pouring their own resources into new data centres, pay-as-you-go cloud services provide an efficient, effective way of consolidating data and programs from different government agencies. But many public sector organisations need to better understand how to get started and what type of cloud environment is best for them.

For those governments that truly want to transform, its time to put a bold plan in place and move aggressively.

1. First, they need to create a cloud strategy with an architecture and plans. This includes determining their organization’s goals, platform requirements and understanding the complexity associated with it.

2. The next step is to identify and prioritise workloads. This includes defining business drivers to prioritize use cases for cloud, implementing a Cloud First strategy to evaluate the right blend of cloud options for new projects, and assessing and evaluating the best applications to become candidates for cloud.

3. Determine cloud deployment options by assessing and determining how to best use private, public and hybrid delivery models.

4. Develop a public sector cloud business case and cost models including transition costs and examine the potential returns including time required for initial payback

5. Lastly, prepare for implementation within each government agency or department by developing cloud risk management plans and policies, security and compliance processes, and transition plans. Then assess the impact on the operating model and make adjustments as necessary.

Putting a strategic plan in place should be the foundation for every public sector organization ready to reap the obvious benefits of cloud computing. By helping control costs, improve efficiencies for citizen-centric services and most importantly, empowering governments to transform themselves, cloud is the key to becoming more economically competitive in a data driven economy.

We’re still at an early stage where the potential for open cloud is just being imagined – especially in governments. By allowing agencies at the national or local level to reduce spending on IT infrastructure, to scale easily, and consolidate information and services into a single, integrated system, cloud computing can provide a proven advantage. For those governments that truly want to transform, its time to put a bold plan in place and move aggressively.

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Sietze Dijkstra is the Global Government industry leader for IBM Global Business Services. He is responsible for IBM´s services and solutions business worldwide, focused on Central, State & Local governments.

The portfolio of Industry Solutions covers solutions for Social Security, Defense, Public Safety, Customs & Border management and Intelligent Transport. The mission of his business unit is helping clients to transform the way they provide services to society, citizens and businesses, and to enable smarter decision making through better insights (big data, analytics, citizen engagement) combined with deep domain expertise. Citizen centric Service Delivery via Mobile devices and client engagement will often drive the transformation. The Mobile revolution and the Internet of Things will have a dramatic impact on the way our societies will be organized and changes in the labour markets will occur. Governments play a key role in facilitating a fast transformation through a deep understanding of the forces for change underneath. Sietze has extensive experience in strategy, performance improvement and designing and implementing road maps for transition, in both private and public sector. Part of his responsibility is driving new innovative services and growth of the Government business for IBM.