Identity is Breaking the Shackles of Legacy IT in UK Government

This post will explore the key IT and security challenges that arise when modernising public sector infrastructure and what Okta can do to help solve them. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many UK public sector organisations to accelerate their digital transformation plans. In the wake of restrictions and social distancing measures, public services have had to respond, adapting to rapidly changing user needs. In order to support such innovation, while at the same time eliminating surging cybersecurity threats and reducing IT spend, the modernisation of public sector infrastructure has become a key priority.

However, before UK government authorities can truly embark on their digital journeys there are several barriers they must overcome related to legacy IT systems. This is where a modern Identity solution can make the difference.

Key drivers of digital transformation in the UK public sector

Conversations around digital transformation within UK government primarily focus on three key objectives:

Enabling cost-effective legacy retirement 

To reduce surging legacy IT maintenance costs and increase competition with suppliers, government authorities initiated a plan to move their workloads into the cloud, using commodity services from a diverse range of providers rather than expensive solutions tailored for the government.

Increasing quality and agility of public service delivery 

To keep up with the ebb and flow of the pandemic, the public sector had to invest in new digital technologies that enable teams to adapt and spin up new services that can respond to the rapidly changing needs of the public and businesses.   

Strengthen cybersecurity 

To adapt to the rapidly evolving cybersecurity landscape and protect their data from ransomware and other cyberattacks, organisations in the public sector needed to adopt new, agile, best-of-breed security solutions that could close the gaps within their vulnerable IT systems.

What challenges does this create?

While most public sector organisations in the UK have begun their transformation journeys, some common challenges have emerged that have slowed progress. Here are some key examples: 

Continued running of legacy systems intensifies cybersecurity risk

While the business case for retiring legacy systems can sometimes seem less attractive than continued running, CTOs in the public sector must factor in the long-term risks and costs. As well as driving up maintenance costs, many older legacy applications with weak, outdated security can drastically increase network vulnerabilities and are often the primary target for cybercriminals to attack.

Increasing technical debt & the creation of tomorrow’s legacy systems

Although the UK government has followed through on its plan to increase supplier competition and push forward on legacy retirement, it has continued to build new services from scratch rather than using commercial off-the-shelf Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Developing highly bespoke solutions in-house, particularly when future funding isn't guaranteed, increases the risk of building up even more technical debt and lays the foundations for the legacy systems of tomorrow.

Growing reliance on big players weakens digital transformation strategies

Given the strength of the government’s early ambition to reduce its dependency on an 'oligopoly' of tech suppliers, it’s interesting to see how reliant the public sector remains on a limited group of market leading players. Although standardising on a large vendor's tech stack can look attractive from a short-term cost perspective, such reliance is a strategic weakness and increases long term cost by locking out both competition and innovation, as the government found with the large outsourcers a decade ago

Developing Identity solutions in-house can incur huge cost

Tackling the complex web of on-premises Identity and Access Management systems that many large organisations have developed over the years is another major challenge. While developing solutions in-house is an option that many government authorities will likely consider, the general lack of expertise and resources most in-house developers have when building complex Identity solutions places them at a significant disadvantage.

How can Okta help?

When it comes to choosing an Identity provider you can trust, few organisations can compete with Okta. Here are some of the reasons why:

A world leading reputation as a trusted Identity supplier

As the world’s #1 Identity and Access Management solution, as validated by Forrester, Okta is trusted by more than 14,000 customers worldwide, and our technical, operational, and financial strength means that we can offer a level of cyber assurance that's simply not possible with DIY. Moreover, as a cloud-native company, Okta can deliver immediate value to public sector authorities, no matter where they are in their digital transformation journey, and regardless of whether their existing systems are in the cloud or on-premises.

Minimises the risk and time needed to deliver Identity solution

Over the last 12 years, Okta has developed a rich and diverse Identity and Access Management platform filled with cutting-edge, market-leading apps and tools designed to solve Identity problems, fast. As well as reducing both the risk and time needed to deliver a working Identity solution, this option is also more financially sustainable for government organisations since everything - including security and performance upgrades, and a full product feature roadmap - is baked into the operating cost from the start. 

Speeds up Zero Trust adoption to increase cyber assurance

For those that have already incorporated cybersecurity into their overall strategy and IT architecture, Okta is a fundamental enabler of zero trust. Our solutions provide a single view of Identity across all applications, vendors, devices, users, roles, and networks, enabling granular risk-based authentication across the entire network and helping organisations accelerate their digital transformations at scale.

For more information on how Okta can help accelerate digital transformation and strengthen IT security within evolving UK government networks click here.

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