Pure Storage uncovers how UK public sector IT departments have weathered the pandemic

Findings  from a European study of IT public sector leaders announced by Pure Storage, has revealed how they have dealt with the pandemic, the ultimate stress-test for already stretched public sector organisations. The research, based on interviews with 511 IT leaders in central government departments, including 105 from the UK, looks at current pain points and priorities as well as the lessons learned and changes that are likely to ensue.

The findings highlighted that the majority (83%) of UK public sector IT leaders are accelerating the digital transformation of their departments’ data infrastructure, as they look to move away from legacy systems holding them back from navigating today’s unparalleled challenges and complexities. Additionally, the research showed that just 6% of UK public sector IT leaders felt they were extremely prepared for a challenge like COVID-19, as demand for services and resources escalated. It also revealed the very personal toll the situation has caused – with 77% responding that the experience had increased their stress levels as the pressure to rapidly transform operating models grew.

They are however determined to use that experience to redefine how their organisations cope with future events and ensure they are better prepared to keep sight of goals in the face of turmoil and uncertainty. The vast majority of respondents (83%), replied that improving the citizen experience is important to building trust in government, a figure that has remained exactly the same in 2020 as it was in last year’s study, despite the increased compliance, cost and procurement constraints in the face of the current environment.

While the objective is clear, challenges persist on how to meet it, with cultural, legacy and security barriers to overcome. Specifically, a third (33%) felt the lack of digital leadership and vision is the most significant barrier to digitising citizen services. There was also broad agreement on the longer-term changes that are likely to endure following COVID-19 in Central Government – including value for money taking on new meaning in economic and societal recovery (90%) and the revaluation of Government “estate” with continued widespread remote working (90%).

Additional barriers to digitising citizen services centred on two key areas of technology – legacy infrastructure and security. Over two-thirds (67%) said legacy infrastructure is holding up digital transformation progress, resulting in increased operational costs (cited by 87% of respondents), reduced efficiency (84%) and reduced operational agility (83%). These findings further highlight that while previously a slow burn for many companies, digital transformation has become an immediate imperative.

Worryingly well over half of respondents (66%) felt investment in infrastructure security is not keeping up with security threats. Now more than ever, public sector organisations need rapid access to their data, and should the worst happen, be able to restore operations quickly and at scale. Yet, held back by legacy infrastructure, it comes as no surprise that 57% said their department would sacrifice technology performance in favour of enhanced security.

But IT leaders were resolute that these challenges can be overcome with a combination of agile thinking across the organisation, and prioritising technology investments that help deliver value to every department. A significant majority (86%) agree that now more than ever, they need to be creative in how they use technology so they can do more with less. Meanwhile, over three quarters (78%) say that agile methodologies and design thinking are more important now than before the pandemic

The research also uncovers which are the priority areas for technology investment over the next two years – all with an aim to deliver long-term value for money. The most common area for investment is in security/risk management and remote access technology /mobility (both cited by 77% of respondents), closely followed by cloud services (74%).

“Public sector business and IT leaders continue to grapple with a challenge like no other, requiring them to adapt to an extreme operational stress-test this year,” commented Shaun Collings, Director, Public Sector UK, Pure Storage. “It is clear that many are constrained by the legacy infrastructure they are working with. These infrastructure architectures have not evolved and were not designed for the digital age. The challenges and upheaval that public sector organisations have been faced with should act as a catalyst for reviews of supporting infrastructure and consideration of what is needed for the future – one that provides improved outcomes through better use of data, and ensures organisations emerge from this crisis operationally stronger and more resilient than before.”

Pure Storage’s study, Building a Stress-tested public sector, can be downloaded from: purestorage.com/agilegov2020

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