The Importance of Efficient & Flexible Information Management
Data management is at the heart of the public sector: from public health operations to urban planning to surveys and permits; these functions operate by managing, storing and analyzing enormous amounts of data, which are only increasing.
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It is no secret that the public sector often lags behind regarding the adoption of the newest technologies. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the adaptability of the public sector under pressure, as well as the crucial nature of agile data management. With the immense public health obligations of crisis management, in addition to all the novel informational and analytic demands brought along by the coronavirus, most governments have found themselves amidst an unprecedented influx of data needing urgent attention. Cloud-based technology and systems played a key role in making this transition a successful one through its versatility, utility and – in particular – scalability.
For example, California’s state IT shop was able to accomplish an enormous scale-up easily, as it had been pursuing cloud since 2016, which ultimately paid off in the COVID-19 crisis. CIO Amy Tong reported that 90 percent of some 200,000 state employees were able to transition smoothly to a telework environment almost overnight due to the immediate work-from-home requirements.
Cloud computing provides a means for large-scale remote access to key business applications, even as demand for services skyrocketed virtually overnight. It also allows for the rapid implementation of entirely new applications from a distance that were necessary to deal with the health crisis. In some cases, the successful transition to telework didn’t just make state employees capable — it made them better. A recent report from CNBC/Change Research found 60 percent of workers say they are either as productive or even more productive working from home.
Cloud and SaaS have evidently proved their worth in a number of ways amid the pandemic.
The pandemic has accelerated the need for the public sector to adopt cloud-based systems as the next generation solution for data management, as well as proved the necessity and demonstrated the advantages of doing so. This article will outline what cloud management is, why it is important for the public sector, and how to make the switch.
Cloud-Based Data Management 101
Cloud computing platforms act as a foundation for organizations to improve their existing architectures and infrastructures by improving accessibility. However, merely storing data does not allow you to extract value from it; data gains value when it is accessible and available to be leveraged. Cloud data management techniques and a robust data management system are accelerating digital transformation and facilitating virtual work environments by providing employees with swift, easy access to data and real-time analysis, granting the ability to make innovative leaps, achieve operational excellence and gain that all-important competitive edge.
While cloud systems can vary greatly, there are a few key characteristics that are common to all systems: flexibility, efficiency, and accessibility.
There are off-the-shelf systems, but to make the most of this technology, it is beneficial to customize it to fit your organization’s unique needs. This way, you get the exact resources required for a project and no more. By eliminating unused overhead capacity, you’re better able to control your costs and the scale that your organization needs to succeed. Size is also flexible – you can simply scale storage, location and team capabilities up or down at any time.
The public sector is not known for being the most flexible of systems; however, with human needs changing all the time, it is hard to see why this is the case. Resilient systems depend on flexibility, and so having a technological ecosystem that can adapt and respond to the needs of the community will increase overall societal wellbeing and help the public sector adjust to new demands with minimal disruption.
A cloud data management system enables data management from the cloud, as opposed to data management using on-premise hardware and software. These services provide organizations with the freedom and agility to innovate by reducing the complexity of technological environments, allowing people to focus on solutions that empower the organization. This also enables organizations to make sense of huge volumes of data in a short amount of time.
By consolidating data processes in the cloud, organizations can derive operational insights quickly. For instance, historical and predictive analytics can identify past and upcoming trends and the threats and opportunities that come along with them.
The cloud enables automated updates and upgrades, freeing you up to address more pressing concerns. Beyond being affordable, cloud computing is changing management as an amazing tool that helps business managers organize, plan, lead, and control their operations.
Dealing with massive amounts of data quickly and cheaply is a problem faced by many in the public sector every day. Without flexible budgets, a good case needs to be made for the value of making the transition. No sector relies on data management and analysis quite like governments, so implementing tools that are designed to simplify this process are a worthy investment.
Cloud technology helps employees access the data and projects that they need, when they need it, wherever they are located in the world. In a society that is increasingly reliant on remote work, having immediate access to data supports competitiveness and sustainability across the organization.
Further, greater data accessibility drives faster responsiveness, empowers users, and increases the ability to access applications and workloads. The real-time updates of cloud computing keep everyone conveniently and consistently up to date.
Especially in management scenarios that rely on a lot of moving parts and/or require immediate action, cloud computing can make all the difference. These situations are prevalent in the public sector, such as healthcare crises, disaster response, and emergency management. The accessibility of these working in the cloud also lends to its overall resilience, which is crucial in state systems, especially when they concern crisis scenarios.
Benefits for the Public Sector
The public sector has had to make some radical changes to meet the pandemic requirements, and generally speaking, it worked. Not only did it minimize disruption, but it delivered unprecedented volumes of benefit. We are seeing a paradigm shift in motion, not only in the private sector but the public as well.
Data management is a much smoother process when everything is streamlined to work under one holistic system. Cloud-based enterprise software allows firms to standardize their tools and processes so that data can course through the organization without worries about compatibility or interoperability issues.
Data storage can be done in the cloud. The software programs and even entire operating systems you use can also be hosted in the cloud. You can even go so far as to build your entire IT infrastructure upon it.
When data goes through a centralized management platform, you can introduce standards that help to maintain compliance. Collaboration is much easier when you’re not struggling with making two separate systems communicate.
Data can quickly get lost or mismanaged when you’re working with multiple cloud storage services and applications throughout your organization. Complex cloud ecosystems can make it difficult to know what data you have, how it’s being managed, whether it’s safe, and how to use it effectively.
By putting everything in a centralized system, departmental strategies can be seen with the whole organization in mind, and organization-wide strategies are formed through better collaboration among stakeholders. This is particularly important in government work where cohesion, collaboration and communication between vast amounts of people and specialties are necessary.
Using cloud services means companies do not have to buy or maintain their own computing infrastructure. That means no more buying servers, updating applications or operating systems, or decommissioning and disposing of hardware or software when it is out of date.
Further, your IT staff does not need to stay on top of software updates, bug fixes, or general maintenance needs of the platform. The cloud data management vendor takes care of that, freeing up your in-house team for other tasks.
As a result, companies can move faster on projects and test out concepts without lengthy procurement and significant upfront costs, as firms only pay for the resources they consume. The ability to spin up new services without the time and effort associated with traditional IT procurement should mean that it is easier to launch new projects faster; a highly integral skill with the rapid development of technologies and the necessity that governments keep pace.
You have many direct and indirect cost reductions through cloud data management. Cloud-based solutions have a lower cost of ownership compared to on-premises options, and the lower up-front investment makes it much easier to allocate part of the budget to adopt this solution – especially important when budgets are low.
With the productivity gains evident in the COVID-19 remote work experience, it may become possible to generate a fuller economic argument in favor of making the transition to the cloud. The economic argument becomes all the more persuasive given that many states will face budget cuts as tax revenues decline resulting from the COVID-19-related economic downturn.
Regarding security, cloud computing is often seen as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, more file transfer, reliance on external storage, and work done externally increase the cybersecurity risks. On the other hand, data security can be applied across the board, allowing mandated standards and best practices to be automatically applied to all users and applications.
In fact, the ability to implement new security protocols more easily may be one of the key benefits of working in a cloud environment. Advocates for cloud have long said that centralized governance offers a way to bolster security across an organization, despite the increased risks it may pose. To minimize these risks, educating public sector workers on data security best practices, such as what kinds of information can and cannot be shared across such a connection and maintaining appropriate safeguards around privacy and security, should also be prioritized.
Ultimately, the security of cloud computing is largely dependent on how secure your existing systems are. In fact, in-house systems managed by a team with many other responsibilities are likely to be weaker than systems monitored by a cloud provider’s engineers dedicated to protecting that infrastructure.
Security is perceived to be the main challenges in cloud data management, but with an increasing number of companies moving critical data to the cloud, these are being overcome fast with greater benefits in speed of deployment, performance, costs, scalability, and flexibility. For many governments, the leap has already been made, whether voluntarily or out of necessity – accelerating the interest and innovative capacities behind improving reinforcing cloud security.
Tools for Implementation
Now that we have identified what cloud computing is and why it is worth the transition for the public sector, we will look at some key considerations for actors when implementing this system.
Before you procure any systems or software, you need a solid strategy so you can get the best technology for your organization’s cloud ecosystem and get the most out of the system you select.
Any preexisting data management strategies can be adapted to a cloud environment. The most common changes you need to address include remote user access, the necessary level of security for different data types, regulatory requirements, and data standardization.
Once you’ve established your cloud data management strategy, you can better evaluate solutions to fulfill your determined requirements. You avoid costly wastes of resources from platforms that are poorly suited to your organization’s data management needs, or that are unable to provide the critical functionality needed for meeting your business goals.
Here is the best part: not only can you have a custom-built cloud ecosystem, but all this work is also done for you. You don’t have to manage infrastructure, operating systems or software. You simply sign up, log in and get to work. The providers have the experience and expertise to deliver cutting-edge public sector analytics via the cloud securely, in a way that works best for your organization. You provide the data and your business problem, and you’ll receive solutions you can act on.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so it is likely you will have custom data or infrastructure requirements that off-the-shelf software cannot address. Luckily, these teams are there to help you design and manage your cloud services and solutions.
The vendor’s technical support team focuses solely on the data management platform and other company solutions, meaning that since they specialize in running and securing these services, they are likely to have better skills and more experienced staff than the average IT team. Hence, cloud services may be able to deliver a more secure and efficient service to end-users.
Will you make the switch?
Overall, the benefits of cloud services continue to win over public sector organizations of all types, and hopefully, by now, it is clear to see why. Moving away from on-premise solutions not only offers the potential to slash short-term costs but also the flexibility to take on whatever the future holds. The benefits of cloud-based data management are numerous, but responsiveness offers an edge that should not be ignored by any modern organization, whether public or private.
The move to cloud has been an evolutionary exercise in many state governments, to say the least. With results like these, the “handwriting is on the wall” —the public sector should include cloud computing in its future in order to cut costs, function efficiently and thrive in an increasingly data-based world.
Horizant has been providing ARCHIBUS as private cloud installations since 2009 and can advise you on the best choice for your specific needs and goals. Both ARCHIBUS as a cloud solution and the new ARCHIBUS Cloud have advantages, and we’d be happy to walk you through them.