Triggered by exceptional weather and bush fires and amplified by the current covid-19 pandemic, the emerging economic crisis is predicted by many commentators to be even more catastrophic for Australia than the GFC. While an extraordinary economic event that impacted citizens around the globe, the GFC for some governments, was the catalyst to challenge the then status-quo and address the intractable conundrum of doing more with less. Disruptive innovation often benefits from conditions of adversity and constraints to initiate the new paradigm that many could envisage but seemingly never achieve.

This time around, however, the radical transformation in government practices is not reliant on some dramatic revolution in technology or even ‘new’ technology. This makeover is underpinned by known technologies and familiar practices delivering organisational wide home working, robust business continuity solutions and digital and cloud native applications more quickly and at lower cost than the process heavy, legacy approaches familiar across government. 

With such clear, quantifiable benefits, this raises the question as to why such approaches have not been adopted sooner and more quickly. When there is compelling evidence across the globe, across Australia and even across Canberra about the cost benefits that digital native technologies, standardised cloud infrastructure and agile development approaches can bring to creating mission critical services, lack lustre take-up is baffling. And more so when current quality offerings are underpinned by sovereign infrastructure and related process controls to secure Australian citizen data.

These include:

  • In a survey (Deloitte Access Economics 2018) across Australian businesses, more than three quarters (78%) of users reported improvements in productivity using cloud services. These benefits arose from consolidating capital infrastructure, running analyses more efficiently or streamlining processes. The report cited more than half of users identifying the major adoption driver as cost savings, specifically the ability to replace capital investment with operating expenditure. It found that without cloud services, even though organisations failed to use their IT infrastructure at full capacity they still incurred the significant cost overheads related to maintaining their infrastructure. It makes the point that because many cloud services charge users based on usage, businesses can realise cost savings by not paying for spare capacity or unnecessary infrastructure maintenance costs. While this can potentially increase operational expenditure more importantly, it actually lowers the total cost of operations.
  • Maersk, one of largest shipping companies in the world, recently migrated five regional data centres, 80 applications and 14.4 million user files to the Azure platform, to end its reliance on obsolete hardware and significantly reduce operational costs. Post transition Maersk realised considerable performance improvement through fewer outages, reduced latency, improved availability and improved data security. Overall, the transition to a cloud service delivered better performance, improved business intelligence and a lower risk position.
  • When the UK Government created Genomics England in 2014 with the primary mission to fully sequence human genomes of 100,000 cancer and rare disease patients, few understood the impact a typical 18 months procurement cycle might have on the challenge. However, thanks to the availability of UKCloud’s secure, sovereign cloud IaaS compute and storage, Genomics England was ready for service within three months from the initial meeting. A priceless time to value for patients, clinicians and researchers.

One of the most compelling recent examples is how the UK Home Office’s Immigration Department not only realised business and financial benefits by using cloud technologies but further reduced its cloud costs by 40% leveraging the 7 simple strategies inherent with cloud commercial offerings; including a commercial structure that charged by the hour, paying only for what was used and API based autoscaling features.

Combined with the covid-19 driven mass cultural experience of home working in virtual teams, we have all seen how quickly behaviours can change even in areas where resistance is most expected. There is now an opportunity to build on this ‘new-found’ adaptability in other areas and focus on the outcome rather than the process. Whether this involves taking a different approach to developing digital native applications or user flexibility in the adoption and acceptance of new ways of working, now is arguably the opportunity to trigger change for the better.

The positive news for Federal Government is that the Digital Transformation Agency and more recently Services Australia (based on the practice and experience of ServiceNSW), have done the hard yards. Creating an environment where Commonwealth procurement is more aligned to cloud (through the digital and cloud marketplaces), security assessment practices are better understood (through the Secure Cloud Strategy and Whole-of-Government Hosting Strategy) and design standards and best practices are available to all (through the Design Services Standard, Style Manual and Design System), is a very significant step forward. Combined, these provide the critical framework, indeed a roadmap for Agencies to extract the full potential from cloud IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

In terms of savings the characteristics inherent in cloud solutions speak for themselves:

  • Scale and automation that lowers unit cost of delivery
  • The ability to use technology to manage technology, materially reduces ongoing operational costs
  • Standardisation, the greatest driver of all savings, accelerates speed to value through reduced adoption timescale and significantly reduces programme delivery costs as well as reducing risks through a lower cost ability to test, scale or fail – fast
  • Reuse of code enabling further reduction of future project implementation timescales. 

The next few months are not going to be easy for anyone. It is difficult to assess how long and how serious and what impact the current situation will have on all citizens and communities. However, one thing is clear: in order to find the investment necessary to enable communities to become more resilient (whether that be to weather, pandemic, cyber or other events) the nation will, for the first time in many, many years have to get serious about doing more with less. The imperative for Government to take the lead has never been more critical.