Editorial

Microsoft: Employees are taking innovation into their own hands

Microsoft’s UK national technology officer says innovation no longer comes from IT – but government still needs to ditch CAPEX budget allocation and embrace cloud economics

Posted 3 February 2021 by

Government organisations are increasingly democratising access to technology to navigate budgetary constraints and skills gaps.

Organisations and departments looking to digitally transform are empowering employees to innovate, says Glen Robinson, national technology officer for Microsoft UK.

He says there has been more take-up of Microsoft’s Power Platform, a suite of tools that allows non-techies to build applications and integrations, automate processes and perform detailed data analytics.

“We’re seeing organisations now saying, ‘we’ve got to achieve these outcomes with what we’ve got, but we’ve only got a finite number of engineers who understand how to develop applications.’ But they realise they have a lot more people in the business, and so they are democratising access to the technology, putting it in employees’ hands to go and fix things at the point of pain,” said Robinson.

“We’re seeing healthcare service professionals on the front line rapidly developing small apps or creating automation to make their day to day job easier. They’re automating away some of the monotonous, repetitive tasks, they’re creating apps to share information or to build insight from the data they’ve got. And that’s been a huge enabler. It’s no longer innovation from the centre, from IT.”

Turning the tide on CAPEX

However, the biggest struggle when it comes to the digitalisation of government is still budget, says Robinson. Every aspect of government, including regional government, is struggling with investment diverted to deal with the response to COVID-19.

Another problem is that when it comes to budget allocation, the Treasury still favours CAPEX-heavy investments – which is at odds with modern technology consumption models, like cloud services.

“Government organisations say they want these services. [But] if you look at the spending, the way the money is parcelled up and distributed, it doesn’t show a real acknowledgement of the way the world is going, to support ‘as a service’ offerings,” said Robinson.

“When I work with government organisations, they’re almost being driven to buy off-the-shelf products, which means that in two or three years’ time, they’ve ended up with another legacy product, because it hasn’t evolved.”

Robinson says instead of government trying to reduce operational costs, it should be thinking about how to increase OPEX expenditure.

“We’re doing a lot to work with people like Crown Commercial Services (CCS), the Treasury and others, to educate them on cloud economics, but it’s a big conversation and it can take years to really understand that. [But] we’re going to continue, lobbying, educating, providing information and examples. And there’s no sense we won’t be successful at that,” said Robinson.

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