8 Steps to Accelerating Digital Transformation Across Government

The UK Government’s latest Spending Round highlighted digital transformation is now a key driver for significant efficiency savings.

The Government Digital Service has embarked on an ambitious plan to get Government departments to think differently about services for citizens with high expectations of a ‘digital experience’, but unfortunately traditional procurement models and legacy contracts continue to nag at the heels of the reformers.  The OFT has launched an enquiry into the supply of IT services to the public sector, looking at how barriers to SMEs, difficulties in switching suppliers, restrictive licence agreements and interoperability of different systems is restricting competition.

The GDS vision is for truly abstracted, open-source, and consumer-grade Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) architecture and Government-as-a-platform. Not only must this be about opening up data, for new exciting use cases that foster SME growth, it also needs to transform opportunities for Government itself to deliver new agile services for citizens, while better exploiting private sector partnerships. Government needs to deliver on all of these to improve the user experience for us, as citizens, and reduce the burden on the taxpayer.

To accelerate progress, Russell Poole, director of public sector at EMC UK has recommended the Government follow these eight steps:

1. Continue to drive a huge culture change across Government

The extent of change in terms of IT architecture and mind-set, as we move from a commodity-cost model to a converged utility-based model for IT, is substantial. The edict from the GDS to transform sourcing to a ‘cloud-first’ model is a couple of years old whereas the legacy infrastructure spans two to three decades of investment and process.

2. Mandate use of cloud based services across public sector

The G-Cloud framework is the clearest signal of transformation in Government. G-Cloud will bring unusual simplicity to the operational model for computer storage, security services and scalability. Surprisingly, many parts of government (and individuals) still regard this as optional or are constrained by legacy IT outsource models. We need to go further than simply accepting cloud based services by mandating their use.

3. Modernise underlying Infrastructure so that it is scalable, low cost, flexible, open and resilient

Only then can IT become commoditised. Government CTOs must drive the move from dated and costly legacy practices and systems to converged, highly virtualised, utility-based services designed around a ‘Government-as-a-Platform’ approach.

4. Adapt government procurement to focus on commoditising the cost of a server, compute cycle, terabyte of storage and gigabit of network capacity

There is a strong legacy in Government ICT circles of thinking of procurement in terms of bespoke technology rather than commodity-priced services. The extent of change in terms of IT architecture and mind-set, as we move from commodity-cost model to a converged utility-based model for IT is substantial.

5. Enforce transparent showback/chargeback to challenge departmental budget holders (who are often not IT directors) to open up the cost of maintaining this legacy

Without challenging old-style ‘de facto’ models the innovation, agility and dynamism present in the private sector, will not reach government ICT. Transformation requires some investment, but the ROI will be swift and compelling in many cases.

6. Achieve a step change in use of Open Source

In our experience, procurements of big Enterprise License Agreements are still happening to the detriment of open source solutions. Open standards should be used for application programming. This should include commoditising applications to improve intelligence and cost effectiveness of everyday government activities such as email, calendaring and collaboration that could be based on private, hybrid or public cloud.

7. Turn the legacy back-office into the next battlefield that can be made adaptable and flexible for the digital age and open up the APIs to generate new opportunities for SMEs

A new class of applications that are data-driven and context aware are now feasible thanks to the concept of “data fabrics.” Moreover, these new data fabrics make it practical for GDS to impact beyond the look and feel of the citizen interaction, reaching to the very DNA of citizen services: the back-office. Imagine what can be achieved by our SME sector (securely) swarming over the APIs of our back office systems in order to generate our next generation of smarter citizen and commercial services. For example, the recent launch of the Lasting Power of Attorney application is one of the first of the Digital Exemplar services for the citizen. On the commercial side, the vast amounts of data stored in departments can be leveraged. For example, Met Office data to help deliver weather information to optimise the location of wind farm sites or combining weather data with information on insecticides from DEFRA on how best for farmers to apply treatments to their crops to maximum effect.

8. Introduce a Rapid Assessment Process for New Applications to evaluate platforms for new government applications

The rise of agile development and modern web technologies will change the ‘attack surface’ for potential attackers. Without measures in place, we risk potential data loss, breach or abuse incidents from going digital.

The Government Digital Service are embracing the challenge of building world leading digital public services head on, but this culture change still needs to extend right across Government to realise the potential benefits of delivering Citizen Service through digital and by digital.

We have entered a new an era where public sector business leaders need continually to demand disruptive thinking and applications that can support the efforts of cost-reduction, service innovation and Digital by Default.

London’s digital media opportunity

James Petter, vice president and managing director of EMC UK&I, argues that London needs to focus on five key areas to succeed as a centre for digital innovation in the 21st century

Today we stand alongside our partners Deloitte, London First and Intel to launch a report that looks closely at the opportunity and challenges ahead of us as London seeks to become a hub for the digital industries. The opportunity is immense; already valued at £125bn, London’s digital industries are well placed to outperform Britain’s legacy industries and form the foundation of economic recovery and job creation, in digital media, data science, agile development and beyond.

We concur with the report’s findings that London needs to focus on five key areas in order to ensure its primacy as a worldwide centre of excellence in digital media. To take each in turn:

Brand / Identity: Around the world, rightly or wrongly, London is synonymous with its architecture, the Royal Family, black cabs, the financial services sector, bad weather and warm beer. We need to create and market a distinct digital media identity for London, demonstrating the city has the attributes, infrastructure, culture and skills to be a global centre of excellence and growth.

Skills: We face a stark skills shortage, in traditional media industries as well as in new emerging fields like data science and agile development. Industry and educational institutions need to find a way to engage and inspire today’s youth by any means. In tandem, entrepreneurs and technologists need to find a way to share skills and exchange experiences, and open their doors to young people interested in careers in technology and digital media.

Finance: Despite the large number of financial institutions based in London there is still, decades into the digital revolution, significant reticence about investing in start-ups here, and a considerable ‘funding gap’. There’s a role for government to encourage and incentivize this type of start-up financing.

Environment: London is early in its development as a ‘smart’ city. It lacks the infrastructure, innovation and consistent cultural experience that visitors to San Francisco, for example, encounter from the moment they step off the plane. With our new Aston Martin designed Routemasters and the increasing number of innovative technology and digital media events centred on London, including LeWeb and The Wired Event, as well as the Mayor’s own Global Futures events with Jimmy Wales et al during the Olympics, we will start to demonstrate London’s aspirations and capabilities to the world. But we need a consistent drive here.

Connectivity / infrastructure: Digital media industries require sophisticated digital infrastructure. The UK has long been a mid-table contender in the developed world broadband league tables, but as we vie for pole position as a hub for digital media globally we’ll need to provide a new class of services, providing 1gbp/s+ connectivity to digital media firms facing a 20x explosion in the size of their digital Universe in the next 5-7 years.

London has an opportunity here; but as the saying goes, “opportunity doesn’t knock twice.” We all need to come together to ensure that we seize the opportunity and make London a global digital media leader.

Is the government doing enough to support the tech sector?

The Information Economy Strategy and Shakespeare Review Response – has the government gone far enough?

Recent weeks have seen two important announcements from the UK government on how it intends to support and accelerate growth in the digital industries of the future.

The Information Economy Strategy is a plan for continued collaboration between government, industry and the academic sector to achieve this. At the heart of the initiative is a new Information Economy Council, which will be jointly chaired by the Innovation Minister David Willetts and Victor Chavez, the President of the IT trade body Intellect. The council will also include leaders from key private companies like Google, and third parties like the Open Data Institute.

This should enable the new body to generate consensus around how best to tackle the major long term barriers to growth in the digital sector – such as over investment in infrastructure, storage, analytics, and data science skills – and monitor progress. While it’s clearly in its early days, the council should be well placed to fulfill these tasks, as the government has had some success in developing similar collaborative and long-term approaches in other key industries, notably  aerospace and automotive,

The government has also published its response to Data Strategy Board chair Stephan Shakespeare’s independent review of public sector information. The response includes a number of commitments to facilitate the release of the vast quantities of data held by the public sector and enable organisations to develop innovative new products and services using this information.

Among the most promising announcements are commitments for every government department to identify and release core data sets by 2015, and provide businesses with greater clarity, consistency, and predictability around the release of this data. A new “data intelligence and innovation group” will also be formed to support, challenge and improve the collection, processing and use of public sector information.

Although these moves are welcome, they fall somewhat short of the powerful “Advanced Analytics Team” recommended by Policy Exchange, with a remit to apply big data analytics to accelerate not just the opening, but the exploitation of vast quantities of government data.

The lack of focus on data exploitation represents a missed opportunity, in our view, as making use of this data could not only deliver a whole new raft of citizen services but deliver billions in operational efficiencies – for example, in supporting predictive health services or in eliminating the manual census.

In order to deliver meaningful access to these new data sets in real time, back office transformation will become an urgent priority for government as it seeks to capitalize on the increasing volume, variety and velocity of data generated by government and citizens alike. In addition, it’s key that skills and cultural change continue in government as they come to terms with the challenges not only of manipulating and interpreting this data, but also securing it against malicious use and protecting citizen privacy along the way.

We’re still in the opening stage of this journey and the government is definitely taking steps in the right direction – but there is still a distance to go.

The NHS turns 65

This week marks 65 years of the NHS. For all the criticisms inevitably levelled at it, it’s widely acknowledged to be one of the leading health organisations in the world. Last month, despite a ring-fenced public budget for 2014, there were repeated calls for the NHS to live up to the £20bn Nicholson challenge for driving efficiency and savings as pressures of a long-running economic downturn and an overextended public purse continue.

Technology will sit at the heart of this efficiency drive, and of a broader transformation programme as the NHS role shifts from being an institution focused on treating chronic conditions to one that uses data-sharing and analytics, collaboration and digital practices to deliver healthcare services predictively.

Partnerships, such as ours with Aridhia, are emerging that aim to use big data technologies and techniques to create a platform capable of revolutionising the management of chronic health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, pulmonary conditions and cardiovascular disease. This can happen in a number of ways:

• through the use of predictive analytics set across multiple datasets in real-time;

• through the delivery of stratified medical pathways, drawing on patient, environmental, social and genetic data to anticipate treatment pathways;

• through the correlation, analysis and interpretation of telehealth, telemetry and genomic data to treat disease pre-emptively.

In a more detailed review of the progress and journey ahead I have written an article on the Guardian Healthcare Network which can be viewed in full here.

EMC news and views – elsewhere on the web

Our EMC News blog has been up and running for a few months, and aims to be a destination for all major UK-specific news, views and customer insights coming out of EMC. We’re fully aware that many EMC fans and followers will have a broader interest in the company and our activities and we wanted to put the spotlight on some great social destinations where you can get your fill.

EMC Pulse – The EMC Pulse product and technology blog is our global EMC news repository. It’s the first stop you should make if you want to get information on all things EMC across all territories as it pulls in highlights from all of our divisions.

Chuck’s Blog – Chuck Hollis (on Twitter at @chuckhollis) is our CTO and VP of global marketing and has been with EMC for 18 years. In that time he has accrued knowledge of the workings of EMC that very few could rival. His blog covers his thoughts on key industry topics of interest: speaking to customer and industry audiences about technology that makes up the EMC value proposition. Be sure to leave him a comment if you have a query relating to a post, as you’re more than likely to receive a well-considered response.

InFocus – The InFocus global services blog has a large number of contributors from the EMC family working in different departments, including our customer support marketing manager for EMC Global Services, Dave Matson (on Twitter at @dcmatson) and Choong Leong, who leads EMC’s Cloud and Virtual Data Center service line in Asia-Pacific.

Thought Feast – Much like the InFocus blog, Thought Feast is a collaborative effort with a range of authors producing content across a wide range of categories including, big data, storage and security. Thought Feast was founded in the UK and has many European contributors, including Rashmi Knowles, chief security architect at RSA, Chris Roche the ‘Big Daddy of Big Data’ and Lady Backup (on Twitter at @ladybackup).

We obviously scour the blogosphere for insight and activity in cloud, big data and IT security well beyond the EMC bloggers, so if you have any suggestions for our blog roll, please let us know in the comments!