IT business model drives financial, operational and technical benefits
by Kevin W. Irland
Cloud computing — with its inherent ability to dynamically and securely share compute, storage and networking resources across multiple customers and their IT environments — offers the opportunity to expand and accelerate the adoption of shared services in public sector.
A survey of state government chief information officers conducted last year by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, TechAmerica and Grant Thornton, notes that “…there has been a considerable increase in the percentage of states that are outsourcing some IT applications or using a managed or shared services model for IT operations.” The survey, “The Enterprise Imperative: Leading Through Governance, Portfolio Management and Collaboration”, points out that 49 percent of respondents plan to expand an existing IT shared services model. The same respondents indicate that 73 percent are currently using an IT shared services model for some or all IT operations and 57 percent own and operate a consolidated data center.
The benefits of adopting a shared services model for government IT can be placed into three primary categories.
- Financial: The pooling of budget dollars to support the creation of a shared IT environment ranks high on the list of potential benefits. Cloud computing, with its pay-as-you-go consumption model, further elevates the importance of this benefit by enabling participating agencies to pay for only the IT resources needed or consumed while still benefiting from a centralized IT infrastructure.
- Technical: Adoption of a shared services model for IT helps ensure that the infrastructure used by state government organizations is current and secure, and able to meet the demands of employees and constituents alike.
- Operational: Shared IT in a cloud environment helps to drive a consistent enterprise network architecture that can support a variety of use cases and end-user applications. A uniform enterprise network architecture drives internal efficiency in terms of personnel, training and management tools, and provides high levels of service delivery internally and externally.
The use cases for shared services in public sector are as varied as the agencies and functions they can potentially support. While certain cases will always exist for deploying dedicated IT infrastructure, there are commonalities across government agencies and functions (or groups of either of these) that lend themselves nicely to shared services enabled by cloud computing. A few top-of-mind examples include financial, human resources and enterprise resource planning applications, mobile device management, help desk services and others, such as Internet of Things solutions and the emerging field of big data and analytics.
However, there are some potential challenges to adoption that should be considered when adopting a shared services model for IT. Among these topics are governance, deployment of configurable platforms, cybersecurity, cost allocation and service levels.
Despite these operational and organizational challenges, the potential benefits of deploying a shared services model are numerous, including costs savings, the enhanced delivery of government services and the ability of agencies to meet their critical missions. Cloud computing and related services, such as cybersecurity, and identity and access management, have matured to the point where they can be key enablers for the broad adoption of shared services and the operational and financial benefits it can drive.