In recognition of the impending explosion in cloud computing and cloud services there have been a number of initiatives by the EU (Unleashing the Potential of Cloud Computing in Europe) and the UK government (G-Cloud) to try and prepare for the next golden era of computing. These initiatives have set out to provide guidance and pathways into how the various public organisations will exploit the opportunity ahead but fall short in being specific enough to add real value.
If we look closely at the main objectives for these initiatives we can see the following:
- Achieve large, cross government economies of scale;
- Deliver ICT systems that are flexible and responsive to demand in order to support government policies and strategies;
- Take advantage of new technologies in order to deliver faster business benefits and reduce cost;
- Meet environmental and sustainability targets;
- Allow government to procure in a way that encourages a dynamic and responsive supplier marketplace and supports emerging suppliers.
While these provide a good initial set of high level objectives there are many things that have to align in order for these to become a reality. In most companies the change process is handled in a pragmatic and relatively immediate manner once a strategic vision has been set, by default the private sector is more likely to weigh up any risk with a clear commercial business case which in turn will provide easier adoption justification going forward. In the private sector where corporate strategy is constantly scrutinised by company boards who drive the executive to look at ways of staying ahead of competition the objectives can be driven down quickly as the commercial implications are normally apparent to all. The public sector on the other hand have no such commercial pressures and are actually more inclined to ensure that risk is avoided at all costs which means change is very much slower.
In order for new innovative initiatives to be adopted by the public sector there are two fundamental things that can be done to push them through. The first is policy change, which would mean legislation to adopt cloud computing as the recommended way to build and deploy new systems. The second is a culture change which would see champions in the organisation pushing change from within and with it a culture change to be more dynamic and forward thinking.
As you can imagine both these are long processes to get right and in my opinion both are very much needed to pull this country forward and to get the public sector to take advantage of the opportunity for cloud systems. Whatever objectives are set and whatever noises are made there are many fundamental issues to solve first which are not technology related. Until these are addressed I fear the progress of Public Sector cloud adoption will be painfully slow.