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Utilising digital transformation cost effectively for the public sector

(Image credit: Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock)

In almost any Information Technology environment the desire to digitally transform the organisation almost overrides the more important rationale – what does your organisation need to achieve with the resources and budget at its disposal? 

The current answer seems to be we need to achieve “digital transformation” and somehow that will deliver the future by default. The Public Sector has particularly fallen into the trap of employing expensive consultancy to help them define how such a fabled move can be made. In simple terms, all digital transformation should just mean the delivery of digital technology – not the expensive alchemy that some would have us believe. 

Expensive Alchemy 

Once you have accepted that the only two aspects of digital transformation that need to be considered are: 

  1. What do we need to do?
  2. What budget do we have? 

You can park that expensive consultancy process – they are only going to spend the next quarter asking as many people as they can in your organisation the same two questions and formalising their answers in a smart document.

What do we need to do? 

For many elements of Public Sector the options to deliver digital technology are not always as straight forward as for other sectors. For a start Public Sector tech, in terms of systems provision, is often complex and the choice of Software as a Service (SaaS) is not always an option – there is the issue of offline working, the cost of moving systems or there is just not a SaaS option.  Often there is no desire or economic imperative for developers to create a fully SaaS version of a product. Therefore, Public Sector should look at a new ‘movement’ within software development, containers. Such container solutions can alleviate the dilemma of delivering “fat client” software to any device and even facilitate offline working. 

The act of placing fat client apps into a container and delivering that container to the browser of any device is a very efficient example of digital transformation. The cost of sourcing and testing new applications is removed, the ability to deploy cheaper hardware is achieved and disruption to staff productivity is minimised. How many times has a digital transformation process become obsessed with throwing out “legacy software” without considering the fact there may be nothing wrong with the system or process currently in place. If only we could take what we have and deliver it more efficiently, that would be a perfect solution. 

Here is a question. When legacy applications are placed into a container and delivered to the browser of any device effectively as SaaS – should they still be considered as legacy applications? 

The simplest and cheapest digital transformation could take the form of taking all the applications your staff currently use (or believe they need), placing them into a container and delivering them to their device of choice. In doing so a cost-effective staff application store/platform is created. The platform is then made available to staff as their desktop experience and the subsequent usage data can quickly and empirically determine what applications are needed and which are redundant. Low cost transformation delivering efficiency from existing, and often already paid for, assets.   

A containerised solution also challenges the hardware element of any digital strategy. If you can deliver to the browser of any device – whether you are a cash strapped charity or library service or a FT 100 enterprise - you can provide the latest software or whatever older software you need via the container to older hardware. Those assets can really be sweated and still provide a positive and enhanced experience for your users. 

If you are an outreach worker and are uncomfortable having to port expensive hardware around difficult locations with poor connectivity, how about being able to use a £90 Chromebook with a longer battery life offline? All possible because digital transformation has enabled that staff platform to work on any device with a browser. Does that outreach worker really need or want that ruggedised laptop at £500 a unit, with a shorter battery life? How many times does £90 divide into £500? The cost savings can be immense. 

What budget do we have? 

I’ve already proposed that a digital transformation strategy does not need to result from an expensive consultancy process. There is a big budget saving right there! It is really important to restate the message that any IT strategy should not be made to appear any more complex than the question “What do we need to do and are we doing it already?” Ergo is the project even necessary! 

What do I mean by necessary? There are elements on the supply side of the IT market that have adopted an approach that suggests that unless something new is purchased then, by definition, the existing environment is not fit for purpose. You must have the latest OS to run those apps, you need a new system, those desktops need to go, BYOD doesn’t work, what you are doing is not secure etc., etc. Often these fears are injected into a sales conversation to gradually induce fear and generate churn. The supplier wants to shift more product not necessarily considering your strategy or need. Sometimes they concur but more often in-house IT (hopefully you still have one or two FTE knocking around) is left to figure it all out like mixed up box of expensive Lego. Staff start finding that some of these new applications don’t work offline, especially in that new annex where, for some reason, the WiFi is really poor. Nostalgia creeps in. Everyone remembers that the old system actually gave you actionable management information, it was really easy to operate and it worked rain or shine. Everybody loved it and now even Fred is talking about taking early retirement. Already people are starting to say if only you had put that old system into a container solution and …….. 

Joking apart – there are ways of delivering a functioning digital transformation strategy that meets the criteria of providing digital technology to staff and customers well within budget if not delivering substantial savings. If that sounds appealing then I urge you to include a container solution for delivering your apps into your strategic thinking.  

Will Blackburn, Head of Public Sector at Droplet Computing (opens in new tab) 

Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock

Will Blackburn is Head of Public Sector at Droplet Computing, whose patent-pending container technology enables fully featured applications to run on your Smartphone, iPad, Chromebook, Apple Mac, Windows PC or any other device with sufficient resources and a modern browser – even if the operating system on your device does not normally support those applications.