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Article contributed by Absoft
Local Authorities are under intense pressure to escalate Digital Transformation strategies while also dramatically reducing IT costs, achieving public sector sustainability goals and extending citizen self-service access to key services. With stretched in-house resources and a widely acknowledged skills shortage, the existing IT team is dedicated to keeping the lights on for as long as possible. With many councils asking where they can find the time, resources or confidence to advance a cloud-first strategy, Don Valentine, Commercial Director, Absoft outlines five reasons for why embracing ERP in the cloud right now will actually solve many of the crisis facing public sector IT.
Local Authority IT teams are facing incompatible goals. Is it possible to cut the IT budget by £millions per year over the next five years while also replacing an incredibly extensive legacy infrastructure with an up to the minute cloud based alternative? Or improve operational processes and ramp up citizen self-service while also ensuring stretched staff across departments have constant, uninterrupted access to the information and systems they need to be effective and productive?
With so many stakeholders to satisfy, the future looks daunting. But there are many reasons why Local Authorities should be confident to embrace a cloud-first strategy and the latest ERP solutions.
Reason 1: A Cloud Migration can be Tactical
With growing numbers of local authorities reducing building space to cut costs, IT teams are under intense pressure to accelerate cloud migration strategies. With tight deadlines to close on premise data centres, a tactical cloud migration offers tangible benefits, not least a chance to address the punitive cost base. At Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, building closure created a 12 week deadline to migrate its SAP estate, including 128 interfaces, to Microsoft Azure.
By taking a tactical approach, rather than a more complex cloud migration that includes an overview of operational processes, Local Authorities can very quickly achieve a cost effective, future proof IT infrastructure that can become the foundation for on-going innovation and change.
Reason 2: Budgetary Goals can be Achieved
Replacing expensive, dated on premise equipment with a secure, UK based cloud service immediately removes the heavy maintenance costs associated with keeping legacy solutions up and running. It eradicates the burden of perpetual license costs – often for solutions that are no longer required. Moving to a subscription based model also delivers a far more manageable, flexible and predictable annual IT budget. The tactical migration to the cloud undertaken by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council led to an immediate saving of £125,000 in ongoing operational support fees and the enablement of the internal team.
Reason 3: Complexity is Reduced
Far too many Local Authorities have over-specified ERP deployments dating back to the pre-austerity era. Times have changed – and so has the core functionality of ERP solutions. There is no longer any need for expensive add-ons – from payroll to procurement, cloud-based ERP technology delivers the vast majority of operational functionality. This allows a significant rationalisation of the software solution set, minimising complexity and avoiding the expensive upgrade costs that can devastate IT budgets. One large local authority was able to achieve a 40% reduction of server hosts through landscape rationalisation, leading to a 50% cut in hosting costs once in the cloud.
Reason 4: Providing a Foundation for Operational Transformation
Rationalising IT systems also frees up talented staff from tedious and stressful maintenance and support activities to focus on innovation. With access to a state-of-the-art ERP solution, individuals can work to streamline processes and improve automation – especially in areas such as citizen self-service.
This, in turn, will release staff across the local authority from time consuming manual activities, ensuring they can use their experience to deliver the more complex services and provide support to vulnerable citizens. Furthermore, with better information councils can embark upon essential business modelling – a key requirement given the impact of inflation and the collapse in business rates – as well as exploring new areas to add revenue streams, such as expanding existing payroll services to schools and academies.
Reason 5: Achieving Sustainability Goals
Local authorities are also tasked with addressing their carbon footprint, along with the rest of the public sector. Moving away from dedicated on-premises data centres to the cloud will be more efficient and support the sustainability goals. Cloud-based data centres offer far more effective energy consumption: one study confirmed that using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform can be up to 93% more energy efficiency and up to 98% more carbon efficient than on-premises solutions. Plus with a commitment to using 100% renewable energy by 2025, to be water positive by 2030, achieve zero-waste certification by 2030 and to be net-zero on deforestation from new construction, the cloud provider’s investment in sustainability will help the council continually improve its position.
In addition, a fully integrated ERP system provides detailed insight to help understand the broader carbon footprint, from procurement to travel, allowing councils to monitor, report and provide transparency around CO2 emissions.
Any significant IT strategic change can appear daunting – especially for stretched IT teams under huge pressure to cut costs while managing out of date and unsuitable legacy systems. The shift to the cloud, however, is not just achievable; it can be made within a tight timeframe and deliver immediate benefits to both budget and resources. Plus, of course, it provides the foundation for on-going digital transformation and provide access to an array of innovative technologies.