IT transformation is top of the agenda when it comes to boosting business performance, which is why organisations of all sizes are making the move to the cloud. As well as improving cost effectiveness, mobility and scalability, cloud applications make it easier to interact with customers via live chat, quick-response email and a wide variety of communication apps. When applications deliver the expected user experience, organisations see improvements in employee productivity, time savings, cost savings, and customer satisfaction. However, consistently poor performance can have the opposite effect.
According to “Government 2:0: A Riverbed Survey on the Public Sector Digital Experience”, this is a lesson most organisations in the private sector have taken on board. However, with most people unwilling to accept slow-performing applications, the public sector is not fully meeting expectations. It is perceived to have fallen behind private sector equivalents, especially regarding the methods through which citizens can access information, and the technologies available to them to do so.
In order to meet the expectations of UK citizens and stay relevant in a digital future, public organisations must work closely with IT to enable citizens’ access to data from an increasing number of connected devices, including smartphones, laptops and tablets. The key is to be informed by what the general public wants from digital and where they feel services are currently lacking.
The performance gap
Today’s IT landscape is complex. Applications are broadly distributed across diverse networks spanning remote locations, data centres and cloud environments. Additionally, data traffic is increasingly encrypted, making it more difficult to identify, classify, and treat with appropriate priority and security. New distributed application architectures, including hybrid clouds and third-party services, increase network latency and complexity that impairs application performance. And SaaS providers cannot control the Internet-based infrastructure end-to-end, and so cannot guarantee performance to the end-user.
The result of this complex environment is a hybrid state of IT that has many blind spots when it comes to visibility into quality of service, and optimising and delivering great application performance is becoming increasingly difficult. With users expecting anytime, anywhere access to applications, as well as high performance levels, any glitches can lead them to feel frustrated and confused.
This is a particular concern in the public sector. According to Riverbed, while 70% of citizens find the process of obtaining information easy, almost half (44%) of respondents did not find it easy to make an appointment, and over a third (34%) had to interact with the service more than once to carry out a simple task. As a result, 45% of end-users think public sector digital services are not as good as they should be. What’s more, though 70% of citizens are willing to engage with the public sector through newer forms of digital technology – from live chat and social media, to truly innovative ideas, such as video conference court rooms and robot-assisted operations – slow app performance is preventing them from doing so. Consequently, while 37% of citizens use live chat when dealing with the private sector, only 15% use it when dealing with the public sector.
This performance gap between users’ needs and IT’s current ability to deliver directly impacts the public sector, causing dissatisfied citizens, decreased productivity and morale, and a negative impact on local and national organisations’ reputation.
Putting performance at the centre of digital strategy
In many cases when issues arise, organisations set up war rooms where a cross-domain team of IT engineers responsible for network performance, app performance, and end-user experience come together to tackle performance issues. The trouble with this reactive approach is that each of these domains has a different perspective and restricted view, so each engineer often arrives at conflicting conclusions. Valuable time is wasted finger-pointing instead of investing in strategic initiatives.
Instead, new technologies enable IT to take a proactive approach, where visibility, optimisation and control meets organisations’ and citizens’ expectations around security, as well as reliability and performance. This requires an understanding of three key issues:
1. Ensuring the best application performance: With the increasing use of cloud technology, and the sheer unprecedented mass of data that is now being generated, ensuring the best possible application performance is more important than ever. It is IT’s responsibility to improve application control and performance across cloud-based architectures with clear visibility into the performance, SLAs, and QoS of cloud-based apps, SaaS apps, and on-premises apps. By successfully addressing this issue, the public sector can achieve increased productivity, as well as cost savings.
2. Visibility: It can be difficult for organisations (public and private) to detect and isolate performance issues within their networks. In order to establish what is happening with a particular application, they need to ensure complete end-to-end, unified visibility of the cloud as well as of their on-premise infrastructures. Providing a clear view of how all applications are performing, whether they are on-premise or in the cloud can ensure that IT stays on top of network blockages and identify data trends that can lead to a bigger disaster down the road. By identifying the cause of performance issues sooner rather than later, IT can fix them before users even notice.
3. Access to application performance infrastructure: Thanks to cloud technology, organisations now have the ability to configure applications so that they respond to their needs, and integrate those apps with other systems within the network, ensuring flawless delivery and the best user experience. They can also accelerate application development in the cloud, proactively prevent performance issues, and improve performance of cloud-based applications with clear visibility into the behavior and interaction of third-party components and platforms within cloud-based environments.
Achieving true performance is about IT’s ability to optimise the delivery of apps and networks for the best possible user experience and highest productivity, whether for citizens, employees, or partners, wherever they’re located, and whatever devices and networks they’re using. The first step is to understand what the general public wants from digital and where they feel services are currently lacking.
As the public sector moves to the cloud, the key is for organisations to ensure visibility, optimisation and control around application performance. Only then will they be able to satisfy citizen’s expectations regarding application choice and performance.
John Street, Regional Director, Public Sector, UK and Ireland at Riverbed Technology
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