Cutting public sector IT and software costs

Posted by John Glover

14-Sep-2012 15:18:00

How making do with less becomes possible

Socitm, the public sector IT directors’ group, identified four priorities for ICT managers in the current climate of financial austerity.

In its report ‘Making do with less’, it argues that these ongoing priorities are particularly important because austerity is having a major impact on the whole public sector — and there are no signs of it ending any time soon.

“While there are variations in the proportions of overall budget allocated to ICT,” Socitm explains, “no organisation has escaped the funding squeeze."

So what are the four priorities Socitm has identified? And how can they guide us when we need to cut IT and software costs?

Priority 1. Protecting ICT budget share by promoting the role and achievements of ICT.
Priority 2. Working to reduce total costs of ownership.
Priority 3. Reviewing insourcing versus outsourcing.
Priority 4. Reviewing information and technology strategies.

In our experience, public sector organisations that make use of cloud computing to introduce online collaboration into their working practices are able to make significant progress in each of these areas.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can do it.

1.  Promoting the role and achievements of ICT

It’s easier to protect budget share if ICT is not only a functional part of colleagues’ everyday lives, but also something that enriches their work.

One of the best ways to do that is to ensure staff feel their views are important, and that they are listened to.

This can be difficult to achieve within large public sector organisations. Staff can feel personally remote from management, and traditional extranet systems tend only to act as one-way bulletin boards that impart news rather than encourage discussion and information sharing.

You can change that by building a collaborative staff intranet in the cloud using online collaboration software. By creating secure workspaces that staff can contribute to, you can not only keep them up to date with the latest news, but you can encourage participation in polls and surveys, invite reviews of internal documents, gather feedback on new working practices, appeal for new ideas and more.

The net result is a cloud computing system that fosters a culture of collaboration and innovation. ICT departments themselves can also use the system to gather feedback, issue service updates and promote their roles and achievements.

2. Working to reduce total costs of ownership

The new generation of online collaboration gives you a good reason to take stock of your existing software use and look for savings.

Firstly, cloud computing collaboration software frequently has functionality that can supersede a variety of other packages. For example, you can use it to:

  • Manage projects. Online collaboration tools such as calendars, task lists, discussion forums and questionnaires allow you to manage projects in an agile way — and in an environment that encourages discussion, exploration, transparency and problem solving. 
  • Conduct surveys and polls. If you consult with colleagues or groups of stakeholders, you no longer need separate software to do it — consultative functions are often built into collaborative software packages. 
  • Share files. Basic file sharing software becomes redundant as you can share files securely and selectively using collaboration software.
  • Manage meetings and committees — particularly by managing the work that needs to take place between meetings.

If you conduct a software audit, you may find other kinds of software that can be discontinued if you switch users to online collaboration. You can also save on hosting, electricity and software upgrade costs because online collaboration is a cloud solution.

3. Reviewing insourcing versus outsourcing

One advantage of online collaboration software is the fact it allows you to outsource cheaply. You don’t need to spend staff time on software upgrades because they are taken care of automatically. And because collaboration packages can supersede a variety of software types, licencing becomes simpler.

You can also choose from a variety of economical licensing options. Some online collaboration packages offer you per-user and pay-as-you-go pricing options, allowing you avoid lengthy contracts and keep costs low — while retaining the option to add users as and when you need them.

The best place to start if you want to investigate outsourcing is the Government’s G-Cloud Cloudstore. Software available via this service is fully approved for use in public sector organisations.

4. Reviewing information and technology strategies

Currently many public sector ICT departments are reviewing their information and technology strategies to identify not only savings, but more flexible and innovative ways of working.

Cloud computing is fast becoming central to the new strategies they devise, particularly now the technology offers robust information security as well as agile platforms for collaboration and information. Indeed, the Government’s G-Cloud team is encouraging ICT departments down this route by hosting Buyer Camps that provide you with advice on procurement processes and the security accreditation of its approved suppliers.

But perhaps the most dramatic review you can make in the current climate is to explore shared services and partnership working with other public sector organisations. As you’ll see in our next blog post, it’s ICT departments that are using cloud computing to drive joined-up working across the sector — delivering both innovation and savings as they do so.

Coming up next: Partnership working and joined up government
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Topics: do more with less