In November 2014, former Head of the Civil Service Sir Bob Kerslake said it was "hard to think of a time since the Second World War when the challenges for leaders in the public sector have been greater". His evocation of wartime then seemed an apt way to emphasise the scale of the task facing departments across the public sector. Nine months later, the challenges have only intensified.
During the launch of his spending review in parliament on July 21st, George Osborne reasserted the now-familiar instruction for the public sector to deliver "more for less". Whitehall leaders have been told to come up with plans to make £20 billion in savings, with each unprotected department asked to model two scenarios that envisage how they would cut their budget by 25% and 40% by 2020.
The level of financial restructuring outlined by the chancellor prompted the BBC's Robert Peston to comment that "this is the stuff of public-service reinvention, not efficiency". However, this reinvention is arguably well underway, with public sector organisations busy developing new ways of working in response to emerging technologies, tighter budgets and the changing requirements of the people they serve.
Many public sector bodies are already using cloud-based infrastructure to support new models of service delivery. Cloud collaboration services enable user to share ideas and information across organisational boundaries and offer the speed of deployment required to get new projects up and running quickly, Perhaps most importantly, the per-user pricing model of cloud services can offer an extremely cost-effective alternative to legacy systems. It is estimated that the public sector spends about £16 billion on IT every year.
Cloud technology may make it quicker and easier to get started (and the Digital Marketplace provides a dedicated framework for procuring cloud services), but there are still some key considerations for public sector users to make.
Below, we outline three key issues to explore when choosing cloud collaboration software in the public sector. For the complete essential checklist on selecting the right online collaboration tool for your organisation, download our free guide here.
One size doesn’t fit all, so make sure you choose an agile collaboration system that enables you to tailor online workspaces to your users and partners.
This doesn't just mean a system with the capacity to apply departmental or organisational branding - you need the ability to create unique workspaces with the precise functionality your partners need.
Look for software that offers a free trial, allowing you to test it out in different environments before you commit.
In the public sector, the number of partners and projects you’re concerned with is likely to fluctuate frequently. You need collaboration software that allows you to seamlessly add extra users as and when they're needed - and remove them when they're no longer involved.
3. Low, flexible pricing
Sometimes scalability comes at an unnecessary cost. Avoid software providers that try to lock you into long-term contracts for an online collaboration tool, based on the maximum number of users you are likely to require.
This can be extremely expensive and wasteful, particularly if you rarely need to scale up to the peak number of users. Instead, look for software that provides an affordable per-user cost, ideally on a pay-as-you-go basis. This will allow you to respond to new projects as they occur and cut costs back when you don’t need additional usage.