At long last, someone on the inside has finally admitted that existing procedures for developing government-approved IT solutions is out-of-date, old-fashioned, and in his words, "unacceptable". The single-supplier approach has failed to deliver value-for-money, innovation or any of those other things that are deemed important today (and arguably have always been important), because historically its always just been easier to go with the flow and use the same supplier for everything.
The author raises three key points regarding what needs to happen next:
- CIOs across government need to recognise what has changed and stop hiding behind the comfort blanket of what has always been done before. That blanket is on fire.
- Big suppliers should see the smoke from that comfort blanket and recognise that the world of government IT has changed. They can no longer rely on delivering poor service for big money and get away with it. The customer approach is changing and they will need to change too, or be consumed by the flames.
- SMEs should embrace the opportunity they now have and bring their capabilities – speed, flexibility and low prices – to the government market. For the first time, government is ready.
His comments apply to his own experience in working with the US government, but they apply equally to the UK and I'm sure to many other countries as well. Anecdotally I know of people working in Singapore research institutes who routinely use their own personal laptops and Google Mail accounts on a daily basis as their corporate IT infrastructure simply makes it too hard to get anything done.
As an employee of a small(ish) company, I cannot agree more. The big players move too slowly and are too well embedded to be able to rapidly take up and implement new technologies and ideas. The world has moved on, so why shouldn't government follow? The only thing that stands in its way are its own existing IT suppliers.
I'm not alone in believing cloud computing, amongst many other technologies, is really the way to the future. Wired reports that Amazon's cloud already contains 1 percent of the entire internet and is growing at quite a pace. Cycle Computing's recent 50,000 core supercomputer built around Amazon's technology is proof that pretty much everything that is possible in a traditional data center is also possible, with a bit of effort, in the cloud. There will always be some specialised tasks that cannot be migrated to the cloud but it won't be long before that 1% turns into 2%, then 5%, then 10%. The longer government and other state-funded bodies (e.g. the NHS, universities, etc.) take to join in, the harder it will be for them to catch up with the status quo and make the most of this technology.
Could these same comments apply to big corporations with similarly wide-ranging single-supplier IT contracts? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.