Thus, as more and more Federal, State, and Provincial government agencies world-wide are converting from more antiquated ERP software to cloud-based ERP solutions, city governments are following suit (though it appears with limited enthusiasm and a fair bit of trepidation.)
IF THE CLOUD IS SO GREAT, WHY HAVEN’T MORE GOVERNMENTS ADOPTED IT?
In today’s economic climate, as revenues decline and budgets shrink while the needs of the public remain (if not increase,) it is vital that governments at every level use their finances as wisely as possible.
Ironically, though, it seems as if that which is bound to benefit the most from the transition is that which is resisting it the most! Generally speaking, it is the consensus of many IT pros that the “shared-resource model,” when compared to on-premises IT, would actually be the best choice for local governments. This notion is solidified by IDC research data which shows that state and local levels of government, educational entities like universities and colleges, etc. are the largest likely growth areas for cloud computing.
But, as in so many cases throughout time, in instances too numerous to count, the bureaucratic-minded, red-tape rich “Fog” (i.e. the old guard leadership entrenched in their archaic, rigid and unwavering ways) seem to oppose this move into the next generation that is the “Cloud” (those enlightened few who recognize the need for progress, innovation and insight for the betterment of computing-kind…may God bless and keep them for their wisdom and foresight (cue: inspirational and moving soundtrack here.)
Why the reticence then? The easy and short answer: money. It has been determined that much of local governments’ resistance to the Cloud stems from perceived exorbitant initial outlays associated with transitioning from one system to the other (even if these initial costs are proven to be quite low,) as well as monthly fees which may be incurred upon implementation from year to year (even as more vendors are becoming more amenable to discussing a “one-time payment” fee structure.)
It is understandable that during these tenuous budgetary times spending money (or even spending money differently) can be a tricky proposition. However, what many decision makers in city governments are seemingly failing to realize is that they are spending this smallish initial sum in order to allow them a far greater savings in the long run (even with monthly fees,) not to mention the myriad benefits associated with the overall streamlining (think: increased productivity!) of operations. But again, enter the “Fog”…
WHY THE CLOUD OVER SITE-BASED ERP?
These days, as more and more new technologies enter the marketplace, one of the highest priorities in any strategic plan for any municipal agency is to address enterprise software needs.
For years local governments utilized (and maybe continue to do so) disparate legacy ERP systems employed in inefficient combinations of independent, disjointed software applications (many of which were simply no longer up-to-date,) spreadsheets, unwieldy and clunky interfaces and manual intervention to gather and interpret needed information. In scope this model, with each passing year, seems all the more outmoded.
Relative to these fairly time-worn methodologies the Cloud allows for the following and more:
- Cost reductions (the name of the game)
- Consolidation for easier accessibility and implementation (and thus the all-important increased productivity!)
- Enhanced services
- Greater reliability
- Easier maintenance
- Increased flexibility
As industries differ so do each individual city, town, village etc. Population sizes, demographics, infrastructure soundness, service needs and requirements, etc.--each is likely to be unique to some extent to each community. Thus, the argument for customizing the Cloud to the specific locality and how it most effectively meets the needs of each can be made, as can discussions regarding the pros and cons of the Cloud, strengths and weaknesses, etc.
In light of this, however, it is undeniable that most cities have some similar needs, duties, responsibilities etc. These include (but are not limited to) such things as:
- Issuing of various licensure, permitting, and code enforcement (business, operating, occupancy, pet, etc.)
- Human Resource systems for city employees
- Departmental needs and oversight (law enforcement, firefighters, schools, parks & recreation, maintenance/facilities, trash collection, etc.)
- Various and sundry operational duties
Each facet mentioned above, for their differences (each has its own unique culture and set of systems, processes, protocols etc.) can easily be shared via the Cloud. Thus, the capacity to bring together and consolidate a large quantity of IT systems and processes on a single cloud infrastructure will not only simplify and unite the separated entities that comprise the city as a whole but allow for the saving of a great deal of funding well into the future.
CURTAILING “ME FIRST”-THINKING, EMBRACING “WE FIRST”-THINKING
The Cloud can even be tailored to a sort of “collective model” of use should a host of regional municipalities ever decide to pursue this course of action.
While still in what could be considered its fledgling stage, the idea behind this model speaks to the majority while simultaneously eliminating purely parochial thinking, allowing a host of cities and towns in the same area to benefit from enormous cost savings by consolidating their budgets and acquiring a Cloud infrastructure beneficial to all who participate. To some this may border on radical but to others (see ‘Project Athena’ in the UK) it signals the next step toward municipal integration and the cost reductions associated with it.
Local governments are only seeing what amounts to the tip of the iceberg with regards to what the Cloud can provide them. Hopefully, in light of the current financial pressures being exerted on local governments, the end result will be less indicative of discord, isolation, and hardship and more of encouragement toward embracing the next generation of municipal management and planning.
Vanessa James is a professional business technology blogger. She is published on TechRepublic, IT Manager Daily and The Higher Ed CIO blog, to name a few, and currently writes for database performance monitoring provider confio.com.