'Doing more with less' - many people working in the public sector are no doubt tired of hearing this phrase and its variants by now. The mantra of delivering efficiency in public services has been ever-present since the coalition government was formed in 2010. What's more, it's unlikely to disappear from public sector life at any point in the foreseeable future, regardless of what happens on May 7th.
As expected, public spending is again shaping up to be a key policy battleground in the lead-up to the general election. David Cameron has committed to the Conservatives' plan to slash public spending by £25 billion after the election. And while victory for Labour could usher in a softer approach to spending cuts, shadow chancellor Ed Balls recently admitted that his party has no intention of reversing the £5 billion worth of austerity measures already planned by the coalition for next year.
Despite their plans for future cuts, politicians on both sides were recently told to "wake up to the size of the debt time bomb in the UK" by the Institute of Economic Affairs. Ryan Bourne, head of public policy at the think tank, suggested all the major parties are essentially still in denial over the level of spending restraint needed to successfully balance the nation's books.
In this context, it seems public sector workers have many more years of 'doing more with less' ahead of them. However, that doesn't mean service quality has to suffer. If anything, it means the culture of innovation that started to flourish in the public sector over the last five years will continue its development. As many public sector organisations have already discovered, technology - and the adoption of cloud services in particular - is helping to make public service delivery across the UK more effective and efficient.
The Cloud First era
May's election date will mark almost two years to the day since the coalition formally introduced its Cloud First policy. Cloud purchases are now the first option considered by public sector buyers when procuring new IT products and services - proof of the government's faith in the cloud as a driver of savings and efficiencies.
When Cloud First was launched, then-director of the G-Cloud programme Denise McDonagh highlighted the potential for cost savings by saving that "off-the-shelf products from the cloud can be up to 30% of the cost of bespoke solutions". However, the cloud is not only a drastically cheaper way of procuring IT services. It also gives organisations a faster, more flexible and more collaborative way of working.
Collaboration in the cloud
Today's public sector organisations are required to cut costs, improve efficiencies and deliver innovation, and we don't foresee much change after the general election. Since 2010, there is one particular strategic approach that has driven success in meeting these shared objectives - improved collaboration.
Better collaboration with colleagues, partners, stakeholders and the public has generated substantial savings for public sector organisations working on a wide variety of projects. Whether they targeted savings through shared services and joined-up working, improved stakeholder management or smarter procurement, online collaboration has been at the heart of almost every organisation's efficiency drive.
So although the outlook for public sector bodies remains challenging, they now have the tools for achieving the level of collaboration needed to succeed - tools that are readily available through the G-Cloud. By continuing to seek new ways of driving collaboration in the cloud, these organisations - from Whitehall departments to local authorities and NHS Trusts - will continue to do more with less successfully.