By Chris Riley, Socitm Vice President and ICT Manager at Lancaster City Council
Why is there constant talk about replacing legacy systems? Ok, so we know that the cloud is where we will eventually be, but are local government workers ready for the transition?
Historically, local government decided to work in silos, so we needed computer systems that supported this silo working. A separate council housing system, a separate environmental health system, a separate social care case management system, etc., each with their own people database, property database, accounting module, creditor module, customer services module etc., etc.
We know that cloud solutions can provide better results from orchestrated re-use of targeted modules, so we’re not asking for the wheel to be reinvented over and over again, together with ongoing support and maintenance costs for these almost identical modules.
People on the frontline in local government today have huge amounts to do and constantly reducing resources, so they don’t want to go through the pain of changing their computer systems, despite how poor the systems may be, because they just do not have the time to do it.
Add to this that the suppliers of the legacy systems are not being the fastest at moving to the cloud, and it seems like we are stuck.
We in IT know that there are benefits to the front-line workers by making use of cloud technology. So, how do we get there?
A few years ago, I thought that it was cloud or on-premise for infrastructure, because of the savings from being able to remove a datacentre, but since then I have found that there are efficiency and support savings to be made from having a hybrid cloud/on-premise infrastructure. We moved to this by making small changes with little impact on the frontline services.
So now that I am looking at the applications, attempting a cloud first policy. It seems to me that just looking for a cloud solution to replace a legacy system, is not looking at the full internal customer experience. Again, we need to achieve radical change, but bit by bit rather than taking the staff directly from where we are to where we want to be, so that they are on-board with what we are doing, and there is minimal interference, with maximum benefit for them.
My cloud first policy is looking towards using cloud-based applications, but getting there by first using cloud-based tools to enhance the existing legacy systems, gradually moving our staff to a new, different and better experience. This means that I am looking for add-ons to the systems, to resolve issues, coming from SMEs working alongside the suppliers of legacy systems. And, who knows, by the time I finally want to replace the legacy system, those suppliers may have the perfect solution.