Forget the jargon: focus on the objective when it comes to cloud-first

Arcus Global

Adam Joesbury
November 19, 2019

By Kate Warboys, Head of Marketing at Arcus Global

Recently, New Statesman Tech reported on plans from the Government Digital Service (GDS) to review its ‘Cloud-first’ policy in 2020. Although it’s now clear that there are no plans to revise or rename the policy, we do understand why GDS might want to give the ‘Cloud-first’ policy a new perspective and perhaps contemplate the meaning behind phrases “cloud smart” or “cloud first”. We really welcome this clarification and fully support it. After all, realism is key for the success of a digital transformation project.

The ‘Cloud-first’ policy was launched in 2013 and mirrored the general enthusiasm with cloud that was widespread across the private sector. It was based on the fact that although departments were free to choose an alternative to the cloud, they would need to demonstrate that this would constitute ‘better value for money’ in the sense of ‘securing the best mix of quality and effectiveness for the least outlay over the period of the use of the goods or services bought’.

Since then, has the attitude towards cloud technology changed, and is there less enthusiasm about the benefits it can bring to organisations?

Not quite.

In an ideal world, all public organisations and departments would be digitally transformed at the same pace. They would adopt similar digital strategies and achieve comparable levels of efficiencies and cost savings.

However, the reality is very different. Organisations have very different IT infrastructures with varied levels of maturity and legacy systems. Due to the nature of their operations, some have put more emphasis on either front or back office systems and these systems can be more or less integrated.

It is, therefore, unrealistic to imply, let alone impose, that a cloud-first strategy is the right ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. For some organisations, this kind of strategy might be the end-goal rather than the first step to digital transformation. These organisations need support to understand their needs and challenges and learn from best practices about how they can achieve the best results at their own pace.

Putting user needs first

We need to move beyond narrow definitions of ‘digital transformation’ that overemphasise the ‘digital’ element.  Digital transformation should be about meeting user needs and solving real problems. Cloud technology has a significant role to play in this process. It can untie the organisations’ ‘hands’ as important processes such as security-proofing, system updating and scalability are provided ‘as a service’. It can provide ubiquitous access to users that can empower them to be flexible and more collaborative.

We need to keep in mind that today users expect all these things but are not necessarily interested if it is cloud technology that powers them. They expect that the technology they use to manage their day-to-day work is user-friendly, it has the minimum latency and it ultimately enables them to do their job well, without focusing on whether the technology is cloud or on-premise.

Cloud technology is revolutionising how we work, do business and communicate. But we need to acknowledge that a cloud-first strategy should be the objective rather than the prerequisite. Therefore, the end goal is not simply to migrate to the cloud and enjoy the benefits of digital transformation. Organisations should place user needs at the heart of the transformation process, with cloud being the mechanism by which to achieve it.

About Arcus Global

Arcus Global, formed in 2009 and based in Cambridge UK, is a market leading GovTech cloud company, delivering mission critical technology solutions that enable local authorities and other public sector organisations to transform their service delivery to citizens.

The Software as a Service division of Arcus has developed a platform based suite of Applications for Local Government. Addressing the challenge of legacy technology in Citizen Digital interaction, Planning, Building Control, Licensing, Environmental Health. Arcus has grown to over 30 customers including Folkestone & Hythe District Council, Eastleigh Borough Council and the London Borough of Southwark.

The Cloud Infrastructure Division of Arcus provides Consultancy, Managed Services and Cloud Storage to a large number of Public Sector bodies across Central Government, Local Government, the NHS and the Education sector.


Kate Warboys, Marketing Manager at Arcus Global –