Public Services > Central Government

Cloud group says IT skills shortages are holding back digital transformation

David Bicknell Published 17 November 2017

Research report from Cloud Industry Forum and its public sector specialist interest group argue 40% of public sector organisations lack skills to adapt to digital transformation


Cloud service providers argue public sector skills shortages are hindering the government’s capacity to adopt cloud computing, putting a brake on Whitehall and the wider public sector's drive to change the way it offers services to citizens through digital transformation.

Research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) and its public sector special interest group (SIG) to determine the level of cloud adoption in the UK private and public sectors, found that 40% of public sector organisations lack the necessary skills to adapt to digital transformation, and 41% per have run up against a lack of internal skills and/or knowledge when attempting to migrate to a cloud solution. 

Alex Hilton, chief executive of CIF said, “Working with the technology that underpins digital transformation, such as on-demand cloud computing services, requires a different skill set from the traditional, proprietary IT technology of the past.

“Historically, many government departments and agencies have outsourced their ICT services to system integrators (SIs), in some instances believing they had also outsourced the risk by doing so. This reliance on SIs, combined with the cutbacks imposed by years of austerity, has left many public sector organisations without the necessary skills and staff in-house to confidently adapt to new approaches to ICT such as the cloud.” 

The research identified a pronounced difference in the impact of skills shortages on public sector organisations compared with private sector organisations, with double the amount of the former citing a lack of in-house skills as a pressure point during the migration process and a cause of dissatisfaction (24% compared to just 12%).

Hilton expanded on the implications, “This widening skills gap between the public and private sector is worrying within the context of the general ICT skills shortage, suggesting that the private sector is doing a better job of drawing from the already-scarce digital talent base, leaving government organisations with a smaller pool to draw from.

“While it's heartening to see government seeking to create a more digitally-savvy civil service and moving in the right direction, with the GDS Digital Academy providing skills training right across government, without the ICT skills in place these initiatives will be hampered.”

He argued that public sector organisations can seek to boost their in-house skillset by investing in training and guidance that enables them to more effectively and smoothly adopt core digital transformation technologies. He cited the availability of professional CIF membership to enables professionals to access guidance and e-learning courses and help them take full advantage of cloud computing. 

Peter Middleton, chairman of the public sector SIG, said, "Tapping into the specialised skillsets of third-parties is also a good approach to taking on the problem. While outsourcing everything to SIs has often resulted in an inability to adapt to new technologies, SMEs and cloud specialists can provide a more bespoke and agile service.

“However, there have been some teething problems in establishing mutual understanding between the public sector and these specialists, and that’s why CIF established a Special Interest Group dedicated to helping public sector organisations better understand the cloud marketplace and to helping CSPs meet their requirements.” 

Cloud: Unlocking transformation across the UK’s public sector   


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