Government organisations are exploring cloud-first approaches to their customer service computing needs. To make the transition successfully, they need to overcome some challenges specific to the public sector  — and cloud service providers need to understand them.

Chris Fryer, Enterprise Architect, NEC Australia, offers several key insights about the particular challenges for government executives looking to utilise cloud computing.

According to Fryer, one of the most obvious differences is that government executives need to plan for solutions that work within government procurement rules. Compliance, by its nature, is not optional. However it is also important to understand what is obligatory versus what is desirable for government within the rule.

Likewise, he says, it is important to understand the client environment and how it applies to cloud products and services. There are big differences between government and corporate entities. It’s important to look at what secure, certified, accredited government gateways there are, and to provide access as a service.

Finally, Fryer questions whether the decision to move to the cloud is policy-driven or financial.

Technology is less important, he says. “The strategy could be to introduce DevOps into the environment or it could be purely financially driven. This is a potential catalyst for discussion, but not the main issue.”

Business drivers

Often, the key business drivers are different for government organisations as opposed to those of the private sector. The most obvious is that revenue growth is rarely a factor.

Instead, public sector organisations are often focussed on reducing the delivery risks associated with contact centre services — such as security vulnerabilities, poor software performance and service reliability.

Of course they all want to reduce operational costs such as setup, maintenance, and upgrades associated with operating contact centres.

“We have seen shifts in both federal and state governments in the last three to four years,” NICE Systems Managing Director ANZ, Gerry Tucker, says. “There’s a much more straightforward acceptance, willingness and in some cases preference for cloud, primarily because they’re trying to reduce the cost to serve.”

Where government enterprises share a priority with private sector organisations is in their desire to reduce time to value. On this point, cloud solutions offer the potential for ease of innovation and continuous improvement.

Cloud solutions also give contact centre customers the ability to scale up operations in high-traffic periods, or down again, in a more cost-effective way.

“What has happened in the past was that if you needed greater capacity, you had to invest in new infrastructure,” NEC Account Director for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Donald Craven, says. “Once you bought that capacity, you couldn’t simply sell it again. It was easy to ramp up capacity, but not easy to bring it down again. The Cloud gives you the capacity to ramp up and down.”

Benefits

For governments, there are three basic benefits to migrating contact centres to the cloud: improved customer experience; managing risk and data sovereignty; and managing costs.

Elements such as omnichannel offer governments a new and improved way to interact with clients.

“A contact centre is all about client interaction,” NEC’s Craven says, “and this is so important for key government agencies dealing with significant numbers of people. It’s all about citizenship and citizen interaction, and improving their reputation.”

In terms of managing risk, there are elements unique to government that must be managed along the way. The government sets stringent mandatory requirements for cybersecurity, which are making their way into the cloud. For example, data cannot be stored outside of Australia.

“We have product-as-a-service but the product that governments need is Security-as-a-Service. This is an emerging market for government,” says NEC Enterprise Architect Chris Fryer.

In traditional contact centre operations, compliance issues are inevitably overseen internally. A cloud-based system, on the other hand, offers a centralised platform for recording, archiving and managing calls and other data, and an easier way to stay compliant with legislation.

Similarly, governments speak a slightly different language from private enterprise when it comes to costs. For instance, there is no revenue element to speak of.

“Sometimes the concepts are the same as in the private sector, but the terminology tends to be different,” NICE Systems’ Tucker says. “If you are a government agency, you are probably less interested in revenue generation as a key element of customer experience. But on the cost side government departments are facing similar challenges to the private sector.”

About this author

Andrew Birmingham is the director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit which produced the NEC whitepaper. NEC are a corporate member of the Digital Intelligence Unit. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply. 

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