The context following a global crisis has provided businesses with the ultimate permission and space to think and do differently. A new era of thinking is emerging. One which embraces displacement, do-it-yourself innovation, and virtual interaction.

Cloud-based technology is a pillar of this 21st-century renaissance and fundamental to its adoption as it enables businesses to securely access the latest data, digital and cyber technologies without having to build expensive and complex physical infrastructure.

Many of the programs the Government of Canada developed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic were cloud-based and the country benefited from the agility they offered. With unprecedented speed and scale, critical new services and delivery models for Covid-19 relief programs were planned, set up, and implemented virtually overnight.

And yet, when it comes to embracing the Cloud, we still see many public sector organizations hesitant to take the leap. Even today, amidst radical cultural changes, many are opting to repurpose existing solutions or build new applications on-premises rather than fully taking advantage of cloud. This is despite the reality that, given the rate of technological change, existing on-premises applications and even those built today will be, for the most part, ancient technology in the next five years. Like the flip phones before them, on-premises technology will soon be limiting. They will work but will be deprived of the breadth of technology available through modern smartphones.

If you look at the top software companies in the world, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, SAP, they are investing in cloud and on-premises solutions are increasingly not being promoted or supported. Additionally, many of the world’s fastest-growing technology companies such as Salesforce, Service Now, and Shopify were born in the cloud and will exist exclusively in that space. This trend is consistent across the industry and business models are adapting to this new reality. On-premises is increasingly viewed as legacy technology and the technology providers are now focusing all their time and investment on building the latest and greatest applications in the cloud as a default.

The public sector community absolutely recognizes the benefits of cloud in terms of reduced service and maintenance costs, access to the latest technology innovations, and the sheer variety of readymade applications at their disposal. I think part of the reason why on-premises is still even part of the conversation relates to the barriers they face getting to the cloud.

The growing pains we are experiencing in cloud adoption are in some part due to an uncertainty many feel on how to navigate the many processes, regulations, and procurement policies. At times, especially in time-sensitive situations, the complexity of surmounting these hurdles can be so great that, in an organization’s view, it is easier and faster for them to simply build the solution on-premises or repurpose what they already own to meet immediate needs.

For instance, many of the large Cloud Service Providers have marketplaces through which they make available an inventory of modern applications to their customers. Although these applications can be readily deployed commercially, it is not necessarily the same case within the Public Sector where applications must be vetted and approved individually. There are understandable reasons why this is the case but it nonetheless demonstrates a unique procedural challenge that departments have in accessing the latest technology as seamlessly as their counterparts in the commercial sector. 

In this respect, we should look for better ways to onboard cloud service solutions to enable the cloud and empower the innovators who want to innovate.  This is especially important because in 2021 and beyond, for Government to tap into and take advantage of the incredible innovation and technology which will characterize this era, they need to have the means to the cloud. We can start by following the lead of star public sector innovators who are embracing the cloud and tapping into successful new models and ideas with wise investments and wider collaboration.

We must seize the moment and create change that will have a long-term impact. Governments need to look at what has been achieved, collaborate with industry to understand why it worked, and consider what IT and policy mechanisms need to be put in place to increase the pace of cloud-enabled transformation. Read more of our thinking on cloud and steps to effectively migrate to the cloud.