2021: Cloudy with a Chance of SLEDding
The COVID pandemic of 2020 changed the climate for customer service across the spectrum of private and public sector agencies. In particular, state, local, and educational (SLED) agencies that provided essential and ongoing services during the crisis had to change their models for collaboration and delivery of services. A restaurant can go out of business, and sadly, many did. But a public utility or election office or neighborhood school must carry on; and to carry on, those functions need cloud-based platforms to support dispersed workforce and customer communities.
Agencies across the SLED sectors have been upgrading aging IT systems, but lockdowns and limited mobility accelerated those efforts. As they pick up the pace, SLED leaders are presented with opportunities to increase their use of the cloud to provide digital and online services that will expand their constituent support—an especially important goal as many government buildings are currently closed. While state governments are making larger and more substantial migrations to cloud services, many states are still working on the basics—things like email or other collaboration tools. IT teams are also pursuing cloud-based applications for disaster recovery and office productivity tools because organizations that had already migrated these solutions to the cloud had a significant operational advantage during the pandemic. They were able to support remote work and remote service delivery to a much greater extent than comparable entities depending on offline or in-house solutions.
Technology companies across the ecosystem have an opportunity to capitalize on sizable needs, however, many shy away from engaging due to the complexities of navigating the SLED sector. That doesn’t have to be the case when you have a strong team working with you to help within the public sector. Articulating use cases for cloud applications may help IT vendors support and extend their book of business into three specific segments of the SLED sector.
(1) Health & Human Services
The medical care segment is being inundated with data from a huge influx of claims. The data increase isn’t only for unemployment insurance systems, but also for Medicaid and child welfare systems. For most states, these systems are owned, managed, and operated by one agency, even though much of the data housed in local systems is redundant and overlapping. Ensuring data integrity across these disparate and fragmented legacy systems is resource-intensive and inherently unwieldy. Every translation, conversion, backup, and upload creates an opportunity for data leaks or corruption—issues that can compromise patient privacy or quality of care. Migrating legacy data systems to integrated cloud storage improves reliability and access for efforts to integrate and secure critical information. As they integrate systems, providers gain access to a new generation of artificial intelligence that might identify correlations and cautions to improve patient outcomes, organizational efficiency, and the customer experience.
(2) Law Enforcement & Public Safety
For first responders and emergency managers, cloud systems provide a virtual “home base,” often called an operations center to manage routine and emergency safety needs. With standardized protocols for communication, notification, and information sharing, multiple agencies can collaborate efficiently to provide all types of emergency services. With moderate human oversight, intelligent systems can organize, tag, and correlate data from police body cams, traffic monitoring, radio traffic, and other passive sensors. Systems that comply with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) offer efficient ways to leverage existing training, vocabulary, and response protocols. By gathering and storing data in the cloud, municipalities and agencies can collect and then apply evidence that meets the standards of criminal justice investigation and prosecution. Cloud systems make it much more realistic for experts from multiple agencies to collaborate in securing those systems from intrusion and ensuring they do not leak PII.
(3) Schools, District, and Education Agencies
When technology chief Tony Brooks of Athens Texas woke up on July 30, he had no idea that the next 24 hours would feature complete, hostile encryption of the district’s systems; extended negotiation with a ransomware pirate; and a school board vote to pay $50,000 to recover district files. Fortunately for the Athens schools, specialists found a near-complete backup on a local server and avoided paying the ransom. The University of Utah was not so prepared, and they paid $457,000—which looks like a bargain compared to the payment of $1.14 million from UC San Francisco to a hacker group.
Ransomware attacks and private data leaks are a surging concern for school systems, outpaced only by the massive demand for online learning management systems during COVID disruptions. As teachers and students moved online together, leaders across the education ecosystem struggled to patch together functional systems, with limited success. Now, newly motivated IT leaders are taking advantage of security concerns along with public sentiment and impatience to launch massive upgrades. Cloud systems have the advantage of offsite backups, lower storage costs, always-on access, and expert maintenance. They also give schools the opportunity to host learning applications on virtual machines for load-balancing to prevent bottlenecks that might delay learning, instruction, and assessment.
Schools are eager to restore and sustain educational services. Vendors who understand the urgency, and have solutions ready for rapid, expert deployment, will become preferred providers when they deliver solutions to schools, students, and parents who are desperate to keep learning afloat.
As an IT vendor, you are a trusted expert who can help your customers embrace the cloud. Educate them on cloud benefits, including increased data sharing opportunities that foster collaboration—which could help deliver solutions faster to citizens and stakeholders. Work with your customers to find and develop champions for cloud, not just within the IT department but across all departments, to help encourage collaboration. In doing so, governments, schools, and leaders will discover opportunities to create cross-functional teams that can work together to develop best practices and implement proven strategies for success.
This post is adapted from a blog originally published in Government Sales Insider by Rachel Eckert, a SLED analyst at immixGroup, an Arrow Electronics company. The original post can be viewed here.
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