Mar 10 2021

How Cloud Will Lead State and Local Agencies into the Digital Future

Cloud computing tools are the fastest, most flexible and most cost-efficient approach to transforming government service delivery.

In a year defined for many of us by sitting in the same place, moving has never been more important. The digital future waits for no one.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, widespread transformation efforts have only accelerated. According to McKinsey, the digitization of customer interactions, supply chain interactions and internal operations has jumped forward approximately three or four years.

Companies have advanced the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios by about seven years. According to executives questioned in the global survey, funding for digital initiatives increased more than for anything else — costs, people, customers, etc. — in 2020.

The move toward full digital actualization has not evaded the public sector. The digital “haves” separated themselves from the pack in 2020, seizing on emerging technologies and digital capabilities to maintain operational continuity — and even improve it — in a time of great upheaval.

Meanwhile, with every month, week and even day that passes, the digital “have-nots” fall further behind. Worse, the budgetary impact of COVID-19 projects is going to be steep. Simply put, at a time of great need for the have-nots, government agencies’ budgets may be tighter than ever.

In fact, budgetary restrictions are especially concerning for state and local governments. The Wall Street Journal reports that, while the pandemic’s impact on state and local revenues isn’t as dire as was projected, many are facing higher-than-expected costs from fighting COVID-19, with widely varying impacts.

What can they do? While many elements of state and local government may be complex, the answer here is straightforward: Cloud is the fastest, most flexible and most cost-efficient approach to transforming and building the digital future.

Government Must Prepare for a Fast-Paced Future

Cloud services are already making seemingly overwhelming digital tasks easily achievable. Here’s a look at some of the benefits the cloud can provide.

  • Streamlining and Expanding Mission-Critical Services: When lockdowns and increased restrictions took effect early last March, state and local agencies had to act quickly to ensure operational continuity — embracing telework capabilities and modernizing IT systems overnight.

    With cloud technology, countless siloed systems can be integrated into a single interface, enabling simpler processes and a more holistic understanding of programs. Cloud can also facilitate greater cooperation among team members, wherever they might be, leading to faster, better decisions and efficient, meaningful action.

  • Using Data to Enact Actionable Insights: Exhaustive data is a necessity in a massive public health emergency. State and local agencies must be prepared to utilize analytics to manage risk, make strong operational decisions and craft good policy.

    Cloud solutions enable advanced use of data and analytics, helping agencies understand their data and make smarter decisions in real time. They also facilitate innovation on the security front, providing safety and assurance that allows decision-makers to stay focused on strategy.

  • Offering High-Quality Employee and Citizen Experiences: Empowering public sector employees has never been more urgent. Improved collaboration tools, flexible work policies and digital hiring and onboarding are vital to maintaining happy, purpose-driven employees in our work-from-home era. And if there’s one thing we know, it’s that improving the employee experience will, in turn, improve the citizen experience.

Cloud technologies only assist in these efforts, simplifying the ability to embrace emerging technologies that make tasks easier and less repetitive, like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation; improving short- and long-term internal efficiencies through aforementioned data capabilities; and allowing states and cities to engage directly with employees about their experiences on a consistent, personal basis so they can understand what the team really needs to succeed.

LEARN MORE: What does software-defined everything mean for state governments?

City of Portland Gains Efficiencies via the Cloud

The advantages of moving to the cloud are clear. Even better, cloud services can scale instantly with no capital investments, setting government agencies up for an easy victory. This is despite the often bumpier cloud migration roadmap faced by these organizations compared to private sector businesses — particularly in navigating strict security, compliance, budgetary, operational and regulatory hurdles.

The pressures of COVID-19 were a particularly keen teacher here, pushing many state and local organizations to climb these hurdles with unmatched urgency and quickly illuminating the benefits of such a move.

The City of Portland is a great example. When the state organized its emergency response teams in early 2020, it quickly became apparent that its manual, paper-based system, adequate for short-term emergencies like fires or earthquakes, would not be sustainable for the monthslong challenge of COVID-19.

The city turned to its cloud-based HR system to quickly build and deploy a new solution to help it identify and backfill the numerous roles needed to oversee the crisis response.

Using this cloud-based system, the team delivered a workaround to address the challenge within a week, and had a completely new system up and running within a month. The impact was immediate. Most tangibly, it improved reporting between human resources and finance, including a streamlining of the expenses tracked and sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement, potentially saving the city millions of dollars. It also reaffirmed the city’s long-term strategic plans to move to the cloud as a way to future-proof and to meet the city’s evolving business needs.

DIVE DEEPER: How can Integration Platform as a Service help government innovate?

Why It’s Time to Take Action

Even prior to COVID-19, new technology and workforce trends were steadily encroaching on standard operating procedures at many state and local government agencies.

Staffing shortages have become all too common, the current IT workforce is aging and the gap between public and private sector talent is growing. 2020 showed us, over and over, that these trends aren’t going away — they’re only accelerating.

State and local governments need to make sure they don’t get caught sitting down.

Andrey Suslov/Getty Images