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Why regional, state, and local public sector agencies are moving to cloud

Rosetta Carrington Lue and Mohammad Mayan, Log in to subscribe to the Blog

The days of waiting in line at your local RMV or waiting weeks to obtain a professional license may slowly be coming to an end. That’s because public sector agencies responsible for regional, state, or local services are following the lead of private industry and national governments and migrating to the cloud.

A 2019 survey by the U.S. National Association of State Chief Information Officers(NASCIO), Grant Thornton LLP, and CompTIA found that more than 80% of state CIOs say they either have a cloud migration strategy in place or in development. And in a recent Pega webinar, Bob Woolley, a senior fellow at the Center for Digital Government and former chief technical architect for the State of Utah Department of Technology Services, cited a Digital State Survey for 2020 that found cloud services are becoming an essential component for modern, digital services delivery, with “more and more states showing a lot of initiative with cloud services.”

While there are a variety of reasons local agencies are looking to migrate to the cloud, an increased focus on customer needs is a key goal fueling this technology shift. Whether the “customer” is a citizen, local government workers, or state agency customers, public sector leaders are aware that they need to modernize and make it easier to deliver services.

Municipal agencies recognize service needs to be improved

Like larger, national organizations, municipal agencies have legacy systems that are creating technical debt – meaning, it would cost them more to maintain those systems than implement new ones. Reducing technical debt goes hand-in-hand with modernization – and many state and local agencies desperately need to modernize. Their systems haven’t kept pace with the digital revolution, and they need to digitize their data and operations in order to improve services and function efficiently in the years ahead. They’re also looking to stretch resources as much as possible, and cloud services provide an array of digital functionalities that support citizen-centric services.

Citizens with smartphones and internet connectivity don’t want to go downtown to fill out paperwork anymore – even more so since the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies are feeling pressured to provide a connected, “Amazon-like” experience. People expect service experiences to be easy, accurate, friction-free, and contact-less. And the mindset is further evolving to expect proactive outreach from organizations. If a mobile phone provider can send me a monthly reminder that my upcoming bill is due, there is no reason that my town cannot email or text me: “This is a reminder that your quarterly property tax payment is due.”

Cloud platforms give agencies a flexible and secure way to modernize operations

The benefits of cloud migration for municipal agencies mirror those for private business – better access to data, increased security, and greater operational agility.

Digitizing data from multiple legacy systems and manual files and moving that data to the cloud gives agencies a centrally accessible and connected database, which makes it easier to track, analyze, and report on data and support new, customer-centric technologies like 24/7 self-service portals. It also gives agencies the flexibility to more quickly modify processes or applications to adapt to changing business needs and regulations. Plus, data is better protected in the cloud. With cyber attacks on the rise, municipal agencies recognize that third-party cloud providers offer greater protections from risk, compared to data housed on local, on-premises servers.

State agencies like the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation are using the cloud to streamline licensing administration, renewals, compliance, and enforcement, making it possible to process applications for professional licenses in minutes rather than weeks.

So why have other municipal agencies lagged behind the private sector and national governments in switching to the cloud? There are real challenges – both fiscal and cultural – that leaders need to overcome.

How municipal agencies are addressing challenges to cloud migration

Government – and municipal agencies especially – operate under tight budget constraints and are expected to keep costs under control. Cloud platforms are scalable, which gives agencies flexibility as they grow but also means pricing can be fluid. For fiscal planning, it’s difficult to justify and get approval for a budget item that could change. To address this challenge, leaders need to present a holistic vision of the cloud’s impact and map out the total cost of ownership, including items like asset utilization, reductions in datacenter costs, and reductions in capital expenditures.

Similarly, leaders need to address their vision from a cultural perspective, as well. It can be hard for workers with established roles to embrace the unknown. For example, IT staff that currently provide network security may feel their positions are threatened by migrating to a third-party cloud platform. In such cases, it’s essential to map out how a team may need to retool. Those employees, for instance, may take on a greater role managing the interoperability between cloud and legacy systems or could become your point people for security monitoring and reporting.

For migration projects, first define your cloud strategy and vision

With a well-planned cloud strategy, public sector agencies can benefit from the ever-growing services of the public cloud. Agencies can score quick wins by building operations in the cloud for which there is no existing and supporting legacy system. These are good candidates for initial cloud migration projects.

For the more complex legacy modernizations, having a holistic cloud strategy and vision is the first step towards realizing and achieving your goals and providing operational efficiency. And this is where partnering with experienced technology and consulting firms is most helpful. Once you’ve established your strategy, vision, and goals, you’ll be able to more successfully build out a pilot proof of concept, garner internal sponsorship, and attract leadership who can champion your migration projects.

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Challenge: Enterprise Modernization Industry: Government Product Area: Cloud Topic: Cloud

About the Author

Rosetta Carrington Lue, Pega’s director and industry principal for state and local government, has an extensive track record innovating and improving the customer experience at agencies throughout the public sector.

As a Senior Client Success Manager with nearly 15 years of experience successfully delivering digital transformation projects, Pega’s Mohammad Mayan helps public sector clients simplify and automate mission-critical operations.