PaaS It On: Government App Development Made Easy

American citizens are more connected than ever before. It’s why 70% of people will have smartphones by 2020, and why 97% of IT teams across the country are currently developing apps for customers, partners, and employees. So as an organization whose job it is to serve the American people, the US government should be among the first to jump at the chance to provide their citizens with digital technology options that can make it easier to become engaged and have greater access to government services.

Connectivity is, after all, what the people want: more than half of Americans (55%) would be open to their taxpayer money going towards research for forward-looking technologies for their cities, assuming it is for services they would find helpful. Despite this, when asked, citizens were unaware of any such services currently being provided by their local governments. Less than half said that they were aware of their local government offering any kind of government app or online portal for services such as information on garbage pickups (41%) paying for parking tickets (37%), or information on street cleaning (27%).

In fact, of all respondents, 35% said they were aware of none of these, nor other related services currently being offered.

At the same time, government employees have a similar desire for improved connectivity in their jobs. In a Salesforce Government Business Council survey, efficiency/productivity tactics and IT training/development were identified as the two areas government employees would most like to see their employers prioritize.   

With citizens and employees all showing obvious interest, why have agencies been slow in adopting new mobile technologies? The main issue is that application development can be both expensive and time consuming. In fact, government employees identify budget constraints as the chief barrier to adoption.

When a business wants to develop its own apps, it either has to outsource or hire a developer. They must then work and rework the app until they get it right, maintain and update it after it is finished, offer support when there are problems, and so on. They also face challenges that come with hosting the app, including the costs of maintaining infrastructure and keeping it secure. Government agencies are no different.

But while for many businesses, expenses like these might quickly pay for themselves. Unfortunately, for a government agency, where resources are more limited and spending must be kept to a minimum, users need a more efficient solution — which is why many agencies end up offering nothing at all. Simply put, restricting app development has traditionally been a more cost-effective solution.

However, things are changing. In both the private business sector and in government there has been a growth in the use of platform as a service, or PaaS, which involves using cloud technology to create apps quickly without all of the regular development holdups. Of the world’s Fortune 50 companies, 48 are either already using or plan to use cloud services. Using these cloud platforms, agencies can develop apps much more easily, more quickly, and in a substantially more cost-effective manner.

What exactly makes cloud technology for app development so effective? When contrasted with other options, cloud-based application development platforms can provide a number of advantages for government agencies — benefits that not only provide a better option for app development, but that will encourage agencies, who might not otherwise have done so, to produce government apps for their citizens and their employees.

Using a PaaS Is More Cost Effective

As mentioned, a cloud based government app development platform is by far the most cost effective option for creating customizable apps. This is because without the need to either outsource to a developer or hire someone to write the necessary code, users are already cutting out a number of expenses associated with extra employees. In addition to this, however, a cloud-hosted platform allows agencies to save money on the costs involved with building and maintaining infrastructure; using a PaaS can result in a 75–85% reduction in infrastructure costs.

Using a Platform Simplifies the App Development Process and Provides Agility and Flexibility

One of the best things about most app development platforms is that they work with either low or no coding, often utilizing “drag and drop” functionality instead. This means that not only is creating an app easy for beginners, but the turnaround and subsequent return on investment is then much improved. In fact, platforms like Salesforce can provide up to a 70% accelerated time to market, all with a fully customizable workflow.
Additionally, this kind of government app development is uniquely flexibility. Changes can be made with simple clicks rather than code, and new apps and updates can be turned around swiftly to be used by citizens much more quickly than would otherwise be possible.

Choosing the Right Platform Negates Worries Surrounding Compliance

As is the case surrounding any outside solution used in government, there are various necessary rules and regulations attached. However, choosing the right platform can assuage many concerns if it is already FISMA compliant. Salesforce Government Cloud is one such platform, as in many cases it already has the necessary clearance level.

Another solution for government app development is the Salesforce Government AppExchange. This is a comprehensive app marketplace that allows federal, state, and local agencies to share compliant citizen- and employee-facing government apps that have been successfully tested. Other agencies can then adopt and/or tweak these apps for their own purposes, rather than starting an app from scratch. This creates a valuable shared resource that elevates the overall standard of apps being deployed at the government level, as well as speeding up the whole process.

Cloud Technology Brings App Capabilities to Government

Global cloud IT market revenues are set to more than double by 2020, with both public and private cloud hardware, software, and services set to generate $390 billion in revenues by the end of this decade. It is clear that cloud PaaS solutions are the future of IT in general, and app development specifically. Government should be no exception to this.

A government agency’s job is to empower its employees and serve its citizens, and with users now more connected than ever, the most obvious solution is mobile connectivity. Using a cloud app development platform, government agencies can do their jobs more effectively and efficiently than ever before possible, and do so without having to lean heavily on taxpayer dollars.

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