Cloud migration is just the start – the real value will come from a focus on people and outcomes
The pandemic really hastened the government’s mandate to deliver more and better digital services to citizens. The Government of Canada has identified cloud computing as a means to meet that demand, with former Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray telling iPolitics that additional cloud-computing power is needed to accommodate the digital shift.
The advantages of cloud were made clear during the pandemic. The Ottawa Citizen shared inspiring examples of how departments like the Canada Revenue Agency, Employment and Social Development Canada, Shared Services Canada, Global Affairs Canada, and Public Services and Procurement Canada quickly responded to COVID-19, noting that a newly established cloud services program made it all possible. Building on this experience, my colleague Mark Lambert outlined four ways that cloud computing provides value to public service organizations.
Still, the fact remains that the Government of Canada is behind the private sector and other jurisdictions when it comes to cloud adoption. Many departments are only on the cusp of mapping their journey to the cloud.
Understanding the value proposition is the first step, followed by phased implementation and ideally a strong focus on maximizing the value of cloud. A recent Accenture survey found that 24 per cent of public service leaders in six countries, including Canada, are unsure as to whether they are using multi-cloud deployments to their fullest potential. Meanwhile, 72 per cent of public service leaders expect their need for computing capacity to more than double in the next two to three years.
There is no question that the Government of Canada will need to accelerate cloud adoption over the coming years. Balanced with the requirement to use public funds judiciously, it is imperative that these transformations are set up for success. Our research points to four best practices that can help organizations develop a cloud strategy — focused on people and outcomes — that secures the long-term benefits of modernization:
- Start with a cloud roadmap and update it along the journey
Any cloud journey must be planned with a clear vision of desired outcomes. There is no "one size fits all" solution — adoption of cloud offerings will be shaped by an organization’s specific functions, capabilities, and maturity. Close alignment between IT initiatives and business goals is essential, with environmental initiatives and targets also part of the mix.
To keep the different parts of an organization moving in a unified way toward outcomes, leaders must develop an evolving roadmap with the following components:
- A tangible vision that clearly states the core values and future aspirations
- An identification of critical vulnerabilities
- A clear classification of capabilities, today and in the future, leveraging the full extent of the cloud continuum
- A strong focus on employee engagement and training
- Establish standard practices to support ongoing adoption of new technologies and operating models
Given increasing levels of investment, it is important to be confident that your organization is selecting and implementing the right cloud solutions. It is equally vital to establish strong data governance for security and citizen trust, including compliance with applicable privacy laws. Many organizations rely heavily on the enterprise-grade security provided by the cloud hyperscalers — the global cloud service providers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google — to secure their organizational activities. To take full advantage of the speed, security, and savings that the hyperscalers offer, departments and agencies must establish standard practices for data governance and ensure that their operating model is conducive to effective external partnerships.
- Prioritize experiences for citizens and the workforce
To unlock the long-term value of cloud initiatives, organizations must put people at the heart of their digital transformation strategy. This is already underway. During the early stages of the pandemic, new digital and virtual services were implemented rapidly to serve both citizens and employees remotely. Going forward, citizens will continue to expect more and better digital services on par with the experiences they receive from the private sector. Cloud solutions can help agencies meet these expectations by making services more accessible and enabling entirely new services and citizen experiences through the ability to manage huge amounts of data.
Improving the experience for employees is equally important. To add more value for their people, public service organizations must reimagine the way their employees interact with technology and consider how cloud-enabled tools can improve their everyday experience at work. A lack of cloud skills is a key pain point for 43 per cent of government departments, so training is also an important piece of any cloud strategy. Agencies that focus on this human component of cloud adoption will see sustained benefits including improved employee retention and increased innovation, in turn leading to better services for citizens.
- Recognize that the cloud continuum requires continuous commitment from leadership
To foster and embed the right cultural mindset, leaders must establish the organization’s objectives and evangelize for agility and innovation. The call-to-action must come from the top: leadership should intentionally go through the organization asking, “How well do employees at all levels understand the goals and the potential of the cloud continuum?” Everyone across the organization should be aware of the desired outcomes as well as the best practices for delivering them.
During the past 22 months, Canadian public service organizations demonstrated how fast they can pivot in a crisis. Now they have a prime opportunity to maintain the momentum and continue to transform.
The reality is that cloud migration is just the start. Instead of viewing adoption as the culmination of the journey, organizations must recognize that cloud is a future-proofing continuum: flexible access to a collection of dynamic, ever-improving technologies and services including artificial intelligence and robotics, adaptive privacy infrastructures, internet of things, and edge capabilities. In fact, Accenture released new research on how organizations working in this cloud continuum can create a technology foundation that will serve them now and well into the future.
By harnessing expert perspectives and advanced tools through partnerships, taking an outcomes-focused approach to migration, and putting people at the heart of execution, Canada’s public service organizations will get the most from cloud adoption.
Read more of Accenture’s latest thinking about the future of cloud for public service.
Zahra Jadavji leads Accenture’s Canadian Technology practice for Federal, which is focused on empowering the Federal public service with innovation and agility to embrace change.