James and Ledia from City Hall's Technology Group using cloud services

The City Hall's journey to the cloud

29 July 2016

Our Head of IT, David Munn, discusses the increasing use of cloud services at City Hall.

 

I’ve heard lots of definitions of what people mean when they talk about “Digital” – but I recently came across a pretty good one. It said:

Digital means applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations.

So it is more than just technology – it is being driven by the opportunities thrown up by new services delivered via the Internet. These cloud-based services are transforming businesses, government and our personal lives.

I thought about that definition again at a recent meeting of our Digital Board (a group of individuals involved in overseeing and delivering that range of Digital activities that City Hall has embarked on – it is chaired by Fiona Fletcher-Smith).

The meeting was addressed by Mark Thompson who, as well as being an engaging speaker is a senior lecturer in Information Systems, has acted as an advisor to governments on Digital Transformation and is passionate about the power of these cloud-based services to transform government.

He described the change as similar to the transformation of the power generation industry, when the national grid began delivering energy across the country as a commodity. Increasingly, these technology services can be delivered as a commodity – simplifying the way they are implemented and reducing their costs.

We’ve already seen some of these benefits at City Hall, but we are still in the foothills of this journey. Much of our IT infrastructure and services are already in the cloud (saving us money and allowing us to expand or “scale-up” services without all the pain associated with buying and installing complex hardware).

However, many of our services are still tied to legacy systems with masses of complex interfaces and relationships, all of which will need to be unravelled as we take our journey into the cloud (along with ensuring that the security of our services is not compromised).

Moving toward a cloud-first strategy

City Hall’s IT Strategy lays out our cloud-first  strategy, and the coming months will see the beginning of the project to move our Microsoft Office services into the Cloud. The cloud-based version of Office suite is being piloted in the Technology Group and fifty early adopters across City Hall will begin using the new system over the next month.

The potential for this has been seen with the use of a service called Spacehive by the Regeneration team. This innovative use of a cloud-based service has allowed the City Hall to identify work that has support among the community and provides a means of allowing individuals and organisations to pledge money which can be matched with City Hall's funding. This has provided a completely new model for government engagement with citizens.

Mark Thompson made the point that making use of these types of services requires a different approach to developing the infrastructure required to link-up and maximise the benefits that come from this a greater reliance on cloud services – developing what is described as a “Service Architecture”.

We are looking at how we can best support this new methodology – which is likely to result in some changes in how we deliver technology services.

Central government is also changing the way it operates – developing a cohesive infrastructure for cloud-based services described as “Government as a Platform” and we are liaising with both Central and local government in London to see how we can play our part in developing a similar infrastructure for London.