smart sourcing

Is smart sourcing the answer to the public sector IT skills shortage?

Smart sourcing is being portrayed as a way of taking control, making organizations more agile and flexible in the management of their IT estates.

Public sector organizations have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic as they strive to serve citizens. In many ways, their challenge has been attenuated by legacy technologies which have made the move to home working difficult. Most however have risen to the challenge, stretching budgets, skills and capacity.

Many have also embarked on digital projects and, in common with many other industries, this has accelerated the adoption of cloud architectures. In doing so, many have realized they need and want to govern their IT differently so that they consume services in the right way at the right time.

As a result, we are seeing a new trend of “smart sourcing” emerging. Smart sourcing is being portrayed as a way of taking control, making organizations more agile and flexible in the management of their IT estates, and giving them the freedom to innovate rapidly as new technologies come online.

So, following the catalyzing effect of the pandemic on a new era of public sector IT, what exactly is smart sourcing, and what steps do public sector organizations need to take to achieve it?

The current landscape

Outsourcing IT has been seen as a popular solution by many industries — the opinion being that it would improve performance and reduce cost and risk as a result of having third parties manage operations.

However, many organizations have learned that, while outsourcing can bring them the required performance in the short-term, over the longer term it’s vitally important to retain key knowledge. You need to avoid the vicious cycle of reducing capability and a greater dependency on third-party providers.

As a result, the trend is increasingly shifting to one of insourcing and smart sourcing. This empowers public sector organizations to take control of their technology by rebuilding in-house skills. 

Yet despite the long drive behind the government’s cloud-first strategy, there is still debate around the best way to harness cloud technology — a debate more challenging because no two organizations have the same estate and architecture as starting points. So as a crucial first step, each needs to understand the status quo and the desired destination, in terms of services and technology.

This shift has occurred alongside a significant drive to take up cloud services. While not all digital leaders in the public sector are convinced by the “cloud-first” approach, most do recognize the intrinsic role cloud has in their plans. As a result, we’re seeing many organizations now moving specific sets of data and applications into public and private cloud repositories. This trend has been accelerated by the pandemic, to the point where it is unlikely there is any organization in the public sector that has not looked at or isn’t looking at cloud and the best way to source its technology requirements.

Getting smarter with IT

The accelerated adoption of cloud, coupled with a growing appreciation of the need to bolster in-house IT expertise, is encouraging more public sector organizations to consider smart sourcing, as a more flexible approach that allows scope for procuring the “best of breed” solutions.

Smart sourcing can provide a fruitful middle ground between full outsourced and in-house delivery of IT services that maximizes the benefits of both worlds to create a future-proofed technology environment. It can also help organizations find the right blend of cloud platforms, hybrid and on-premise systems to create a multicloud approach that meets their unique demands, while balancing investment in external and internal skills — paying for the former only when there is real value in doing so and building up the latter to increase their control over the long-term.

With the flexibility and agility required in today’s digital world, smart sourcing is a continuous process, not a one-off event. It is a “mindset” that empowers IT leaders to get the best combination of technology services and suppliers for their organization as their needs evolve. It requires smart thinking to get the most from the plethora of cloud options available — treating multiple suppliers as a menu from which to find the right fit for their organization.

Getting on the road to smart sourcing

One of the first steps to smart sourcing is to map the organization’s current services and technology architecture, including those in any existing outsourcing contract. This is the best way to track how it is performing and its effect on users and citizens, and begin to understand how it can be managed for optimum results.

A thorough understanding of the organization’s information architecture is also key, along with assessment of the critical or commodity nature of each element. Inevitably, as elements change there are impacts on other parts of the whole — knowing exactly which components fit where is essential to making a good start.

It is also vital that public sector organizations ensure their skills and knowledge are retained and invest in education, especially because retaining a core internal team offers a degree of agility. Most of the time, smart sourcing is around “out tasking” and not “out sourcing,” so knowledge is rarely impacted.

Choosing the right path for your organization

Ultimately, while big changes in technology and business management can open up new opportunities, there is no one single approach that is likely to provide the best solution for all public sector organizations. As a result, many are now coming to realize the benefits of smart sourcing to get the most from in-house and third-party skills, as well as maximize the benefits of the cloud services they leverage.


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About the Authors

Tim Lovejoy​

Vice President Private Cloud and Government, EMEA​

Tim Lovejoy​

As Rackspace Technology™ Vice President for Private Cloud and Government in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions, Tim is focused on accelerating the adoption of multicloud. He is dedicated to helping customers achieve the best value from the cloud using the unbiased and deep engineering expertise of Rackspace Technology.​ Tim has over 25 years of experience in various leadership roles based on delivering value to customers in the public, financial, energy and utilities sectors. Before joining Rackspace Technology, Tim worked for IBM, where he was responsible for enterprise clients. Elsewhere, Tim has held leadership roles at Deutsche Telekom, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Electronic Data Systems (EDS). While at EDS he worked to shape the growth of the largest government accounts and was responsible for the post-merger of EDS, EMEA into HP.

Read more about Tim Lovejoy​