Navigating the Cloud: Key considerations for Local Government IT Leaders

Today, local and regional councils across the UK face the strain of trying to improve their public service offering while staying within ever-tightening budgets. IT leaders have to navigate a challenging and evolving technology landscape to keep up with demands, which are being shaped by the shift from on-premises infrastructure to cloud-based solutions – a key priority for many local and regional councils in 2024.

Many IT leaders end up inheriting IT infrastructure that is still on-premises when they join a new organisation, and are tasked with successfully getting an outdated technological environment up to scratch.

If you’re in that boat, we’ve picked out four key considerations to get you heading in the right direction.

Understand your council’s needs and objectives

Before embarking on any technological transformation, IT leaders need to develop a clear understanding of their council’s requirements and expectations. This can include conducting thorough assessments of your existing inventory and assets, identifying pain points and challenges, and aligning your cloud migration goals with broader council goals and strategies.

Here are some top tips:

  • Take stock of your existing systems and applications, identifying components that are essential to your council’s day-to-day operations.
  • Take note of systems that depend on each other and consider how migrating each system independently could disrupt functionality.
  • Consider which systems may not be cloud-compatible – do they need to be replaced, retired, or reconfigured?
  • Catalogue all your data that’s stored on premises. This will come in handy and keep you compliant when you come to migrate it.

There are any number of reasons as to a council might take on a cloud migration project. Is it to enhance service delivery, improve the functionality and scalability of their services or reduce long-term operational costs? The list can be extensive but as part of your assessment, it will be important to consider what objectives the council wants to achieve and align your cloud initiatives with them.

Understanding your landscape sets the foundation for a successful cloud migration. It informs decisions about workload prioritisation, migration strategies and resource allocation. By assessing your current state, IT leaders can navigate the cloud with confidence. The cloud journey isn’t just about technology – it’s also about aligning IT with your council goals to deliver better services to the public.

Develop a Comprehensive Migration Strategy

A move to the cloud is no easy task and there is no one-sits-fits-all process. Cloud migration requires careful planning and having a well-defined strategy in place can help you. By breaking down the migration process into smaller phases and establishing clear objectives and timelines, you can mitigate risks and ensure a much smoother transition.

There are three keys step when developing a cloud migration strategy for a council.

Data Management

  • For any organisation, data is its biggest asset. Mismanagement of that data can lead to severe consequences, including heavy fines and loss of reputation. You should develop a detailed migration plan that outlines migration methods, tools, and best practices to ensure the secure transfer of your data and infrastructure. Consider factors like the volume of your data, its complexity, and any regulatory requirements that councils must adhere to.

Security and Compliance

  • Local and regional councils have to abide by central government frameworks that help to build and maintain a cyber-resilient public sector, such as the Government Cyber Security Strategy: 2022 to 2030. Remember to implement robust security controls, encryption, access management policies and compliance frameworks to protect your most sensitive data and ensure that you are meeting public sector security standards.

Risk Management and Contingency Planning

  • A cloud migration can be risky business if you dive in head first. Preparation is key, so it’s important to prepare for the worst-case scenario just in case. In your migration strategy, identify potential risks and challenges and develop strategies to mitigate them. Establish contingency plans and rollback procedures so that you can minimise disruptions to your infrastructure if any problems were to arise. There’s no harm in testing and validating your migration strategy to identify any potential risks proactively.

There are more steps to creating a migration strategy, but the three above are important to ensure you remain compliant throughout the process and don’t run the risk of creating problems.

For more on creating a comprehensive migration strategy, download our guide.

Assess your Costs and Budgets

In a time where councils are told to ‘do more with less’, costs and budgets for new technology are stricter than ever. If you’re considering a cloud migration, you need to make sure you factor in costs and budgets effectively to ensure that your transition is cost-effective and efficient, which means you’re only paying for what you need and what aligns most with your council’s objectives.

CapEx vs OpEx

While the private sector steps up its cloud migration approach, the public sector still seems to be wrestling with issues around CapEx and OpEx budgets. Put simply, capital expenditure (CapEx) refers to the one-time cost a council may spend on a fixed asset over a longer period whereas operating expenditures (OpEx) are funds that support day-to-day operations, like pay-as-you-go monthly models.

If you’re looking at a move to the cloud, it’s a good time to reconsider how best to classify this cost. Many cloud managed service providers (MSP) will offer you their services at a monthly cost as part of your OpEx, meaning you have greater control of your cloud spend. You won’t be tied down to a fixed-cost contract over a long period of time.

With a cloud management classified as OpEx, it will be much easier to control your costs and you can target your monthly spend on subscriptions and licenses to ensure that you are only spending money on services that you are using.

The are three key considerations when managing your money.

  • Consider the initial migration costs. These can be related to data transfer, application migration and initial infrastructure set-up, but could also incluside hiring consultants or specialists, purchasing migration services and conducting staff training.
  • Try and estimate your costs for any of the cloud service subscriptions. By factoring in these estimates with your projected usage requirements, you can work with the cloud provider to create a pricing option that best suits your council.
  • Think about your costs for ongoing managed services. These fees may include the maintenance and management of cloud resources, technical support and other cloud optimisation and troubleshooting services.

Invest in Training and Plan for Change Management

Moving to the cloud represents a significant organisational change that goes beyond technology. It requires a cultural shift in mindset, workflows, and processes at your organisation. Therefore, as an IT leader, it wil be essential to invest in change management initiatives to help your team and other direct stakeholders at the council adapt to the new cloud environment and embrace new ways of working.

What should you consider?

  • Invest in training programs to equip the IT staff with the knowledge and skills needed to design, deploy, operate, and optimise your cloud environment.
  • Empower your team with the necessary tools and expertise so that they can become champions of your chosen cloud platform.
  • A cloud migration affects everyone in your council, not just the IT team. Develop resources, guides, and training sessions to help support all levels of employees in the council. This will minimise disruptions, improve user adoption and maximise productivity and satisfaction.
  • Foster a culture of feedback and continuous improvement. Soliciting feedback from users throughout the training and migration process will help identify areas for improvement, in turn ensuring that your investment in training yields maximum impact and drives a successful cloud journey.

Investing in training and change management is essential for ensuring the success of a council’s cloud migration. By empowering IT staff, end-users, and stakeholders with the necessary skills, knowledge, and support, councils can navigate the complexities of cloud adoption effectively, minimize resistance to change, and maximise the benefits of the cloud for their organisation and constituents.

What next?

Cloud migration projects are complex, and navigating them alone only enhances their difficulty. There are countless reasons to engage with a Managed Service Provider, but their experience is particularly invaluable. We’re here to lend a hand.