Cloud readiness at the government

Cloud SaaS

On the way to the digital enterprise?

Cloud Architect and co-founder of IT Consultant Weolcan Bart Veldhuis works with companies and governments daily to help them assess strategic decisions regarding their IT landscape. In this interview, he gives us some insights into his upcoming session. Let’s see what he has to say.

How big is the cloud issue for the Dutch government at the moment?

“At the municipality and regional level, many governments cooperate to develop so-called ‘common ground’ applications. Governments require certain unique applications that function at municipality level, such as a register to keep records of a cemetery. But on the other hand, they are also quite common. Why should there be 200 different apps to keep these records? One joint application for all municipalities is much smarter, cheaper, safer and easier to maintain technically. Next to this, making clear architectural principles is also important. For instance, say you are gathering location data, you should integrate your sources of data and only have to fill in a geolocation once. Then, it is immediately implemented in all other relevant applications. Combined this is exactly why the Dutch municipalities have these common ground apps developed. This is done in collaboration with the VNG, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities.”

“Those apps work best as SaaS apps in the cloud, although it is still possible to use them locally on-premise. In an average municipality, 80 percent of the IT landscape may eventually consist of these types of standard applications, creating a major incentive to start working in the cloud, if they currently don’t.”

Unlike “normal” companies, what should the government take into account in cloud readiness?

“Well, there are quite a few things really. To begin with, there are laws and regulations, which are very different for governments than for companies. To make it more complicated, the rules often change, and this requires implementing changes or upgrades in your IT environment. This is a great advantage of shared cloud apps, where this can be arranged centrally, instead of each municipality having to do this itself.”

“In addition, governments have public duties, creating serious compliance requirements and expectations from governments. To overcome all this, they need to work proactively. If you, as a government, wait to adjust your IT until new laws and regulations have been introduced, then you have a serious problem.”

When is the ideal time to make the switch?

“To determine what is important, you first have to make a good inventory of what you already have. In addition, you must implement a cloud transition in a structured manner, with a clear strategy in mind.”

“What you definitely must NOT do is sit back and hope for the best. That leads to chaos. If you take a look at what needs to be done at the end of an app’s lifecycle and only then determine that you want to go to the cloud, you are simply too late. That is a train wreck in the making. A cloud transformation requires solid preparation, planning and, above all, a clear vision from the contractor. In this case the government. This is really important because as a government you also bear political responsibility for your decisions. If a critical IT system fails and important processes no longer run smoothly or safely, you can be blamed for that.”

As a municipality, how do you keep a clear overview when implementing all these SaaS applications?

“Municipalities will soon receive a lot of SaaS applications, supplemented with the common ground apps from the VNG association. Naturally, they have to communicate with your current landscape too. In other words, they must be integrated into your unique IT environment, and data must be exchanged securely. All of this involves the necessary IT architects, solid security practices and costs for implementing it.”

“In a cloud transition, it is crucial to work with a roadmap. How do we, as a government, reach the stage where we can call ourselves a digital organisation? Well, you work towards that step by step, and that again involves several kinds of people with different skills. The aim is to get the necessary automation, integration and security in motion within your organization.”

“You can’t eat an elephant in one bite, or bit. Other programs are running that require time and attention to continue. Also, as a government, you cannot simply halt the civil affairs department for technical maintenance. So, you have to make a smart choice between what you should and should not do and when to do it.”

“What’s also important to consider is what kind of people do you need for your journey. How will you introduce these new apps to your employees, the new processes they will be working with, and the culture change required to do so? How do you transform your work processes as a government, while at the same time retaining your current organizational structure?”

“By answering these – and more – questions, it is possible to set up the roadmap and work proactively towards cloud readiness. Also, in such a way that it suits your organization, meets your needs and complies with all laws and regulations.”