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Innovation accelerator: How the public cloud powers Accela’s SaaS-centric strategy

For years, Accela has aspired to shift its Civic Applications to a cloud infrastructure. Now, with over 200 successful customer migrations from Accela’s data center-hosted solution to the Microsoft Azure public cloud, we’ve achieved not only a major milestone for Accela, but an even bigger win for our government customers.

The cloud offers improved speed and scalability for state and local end-users. It allows us to deliver new services and enhanced capabilities faster than ever before. And the move aligns us more closely with our customers, as agencies continue their own evolution toward a cloud-supported infrastructure.

The move to cloud reduces agencies’ need for ongoing maintenance and upgrade resourcing, and allows them to rapidly react to a changing regulatory landscape. By offering our Civic Platform in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, we can speed up innovation across state and local government, while simultaneously helping free budget-conscious end-users from the cycle of costly CapEx upgrades.

Benefits of SaaS

Supported by cloud, SaaS ensures we fulfill the “brilliant basics” — the foundational elements of software delivery. Security, reliability, scalability, and manageability are all enhanced in the cloud as we move toward enhanced levels of uptime.

Our SaaS-centric business model also empowers governments to be fast and flexible and roll out new tools and capabilities in a quicker and more cost-effective manner. Take, for example, the single sign-on function. In an on-premise product, it would take a lot of backend work by the customer’s IT department to deploy this higher-level security component. In a SaaS environment, we can effectively deliver this with a single click.

Accela is ramping up new product offerings, with ready-made capabilities that can be rapidly deployed and put to effective use. Every time Microsoft innovates, we innovate. Turnkey enhancements to their platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service products enable us, in turn, to deliver new tools and new functionality to government faster than ever before.

This turnkey capability means Accela end-users will be able to tap into a range of powerful new use cases in the future.

A Shared Journey

Broadly speaking, a move to the cloud ensures that Accela is engaged in the same digital journey as our customers.

State and local entities are increasingly moving their processes to public cloud platforms as they strive to modernize, drive growth, and stay better connected with their residents’ needs. By undertaking that same migration ourselves, we’re better able to recognize and respond to the unique challenges and opportunities that emerge in this new model.

One thing we’ve learned along the way is that things aren’t always going to go right on the first try. There inevitably will be missteps. It therefore makes sense for those making the journey to start small and engage in a limited cloud-first deployment as a way of working out the kinks. In Accela’s case, that meant shifting internal processes to the cloud before migrating our public-facing functionality. By transitioning our internal environments first, we were able to ensure we could deliver a seamless experience when it came time to SaaS-enable our customers.

Overall, the process has been an exercise in empathy. Having made the journey ourselves, we’re now in a better position to support our customers through their own transition to the cloud.

Evolving Relationships

Going forward, we expect the SaaS model will drive some fundamental changes in the relationship between Accela and our government customers.

In the on-prem model, for example, the end-user has a high degree of responsibility around security. As a SaaS provider, Accela now bears a greater share of that burden, and this promises to change the conversation going forward.

The cloud, likewise, shifts the dynamics around customer tenancy, with a hybrid model that supports a combination of single-tenant database and a multi-tenant business layer. In this way, we can leverage shared resources around scale and availability, bringing to bear the full power of the cloud while still ensuring single-tenant data segmentation, security, and privacy.

We’ll also be having new conversations around time to value, as agency CIOs engage with Accela subject matter experts to adopt a consumption model of IT modernization. A SaaS-supported shift from CapEx and OpEx promises to open up a world of possibilities. Rather than procuring new hardware, new networking gear and new data center space in support of upgrades, government will be able to field new tools at the push of a button.

We view our move to the cloud as a first step toward the future for Accela and our customers. With the flexibility to spin up new services faster and more cost-effectively, government leaders will discover new opportunities to embrace innovation as they seek to attract and grow businesses, protect citizens, and build smart cities and communities.

About The Author / Renato Mascardo