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Destination: Cloud first

Will the cloud drive innovation in both the public sector and the digital economy next year?

Cloud first is a leadership stance

Ovum’s view is that a pro-cloud-services policy is a positive step for many governments … even though when taken literally it can seem a bit odd to bias procurement towards one particular sourcing model. The argument that some of the activity under the US government’s Cloud First was perhaps a little inefficient or could have been better planned misses the point that these criticisms can equally be applied to any previous whole-of-government ICT strategy and also that it was strategically necessary to create a more active step change in the ICT reform agenda. Vivek Kundra was exercising Leadership with a capital “L” when he used Cloud First to “kick the hornet’s nest” of government ICT procurement.

Cloud first needs to be a practical journey, not an ideological quest

Ovum’s recommendation to agencies since 2009 has been that the most important way to transition safely into cloud services is to get started – to gain ‘hands-on’ experience. Proverbially, “it takes two to tango”. Vendors need to develop and mature their cloud services capabilities to meet government’s needs … and need projects to do so. Agencies need to unlearn some traditional ICT thinking, learn some new internet-age, more agile, thinking and gain some new skills. Actual experience of implementing and managing cloud services is critical for organisational learning.

From this perspective, it is a mistake for central agencies to focus too much on writing largely theoretical policy guidance and seeking to control agency adoption of cloud services. The bias needs to be towards encouraging adoption in prudent applications and workloads, sharing experiences between early adopters, showcasing successes, solving significant policy obstacles and creating enabling frameworks. Cloud services adoption is all about making trade-offs between different forms of benefits and risks - and these trade-offs require practical experience of outcomes.

Cloud services are actually a paradox for whole-of-government ICT strategy. They are highly centralised, shared services that deliver economies of scale and innovation in a decentralised manner to individual agencies. Agencies can act unilaterally and still achieve the benefits of centralisation without the need for a mandated “forced march” by a strong central agency. Indeed, the paradox is that an over-controlling approach from the centre may be the very thing that discourages agencies from taking advantage of the centralisation benefits of cloud services and slows cloud adoption.

The bottom line is that a cloud first strategy should focus on creating action and organisational learning in agencies – not just documents and cumbersome centralised procurement arrangements.

It is time to kick the ICT procurement Hornet’s nest in your agency

The problem for all national, state and local government jurisdictions in the ANZ region is that the current approach to ICT is becoming increasingly untenable due to a growing mismatch between demand for ICT innovation and the ability of agency ICT departments to supply innovative projects. Ovum’s view is that many agencies are stuck in a game of “snakes and ladders” – unable to make sustainable progress in the maturity and sophistication of their ICT capabilities.

The rate of failure of ICT-enabled business change projects is too high. Too many projects take too long and are too expensive. ICT procurement and risk management processes create increasing layers of bureaucratic checks and balances that obfuscate accountability and increase project timelines and costs. Internal strategies of consolidation, rationalisation and standardisation and shared services have delivered mixed results – in many cases further increasing project timelines, costs and risks and in some cases causing total project failure. Assets are ageing and their replacement is unfunded because depreciated allowances have been raided for other purposes. To make matter worse, fiscal constraints are further compounding the stresses and technology is changing more quickly than the agency ICT departments can keep up with. The challenges appear to be moving beyond the reach of incremental and tactical refinements of ICT procurement and ICT management practices.

In essence the value of cloud first is that it authorises, and even requires, senior agency executives to look beyond the constraints that are driving the snakes and ladders game of ICT management. A cloud first stance authorises them to ask the question “is there a better, more agile, way to use ICT to achieve our policy and service delivery outcomes?” Can we just buy and use services that are already proven to work in the cloud rather than building customised systems and running them ourselves?

This value, however, is only apparent if one first opens one’s eyes to the reality of the unsustainability of the status quo and the fact that we really do need to accelerate the introduction of a fresh approach to ICT in government - as well as in the economy.

Dr Steve Hodgkinson is Research Director IT Asia Pacific for Ovum. He was born in Invercargill, studied at Otago and Oxford Universities and now lives in Melbourne. Cloud first is a leadership stance

Ovum’s view is that a pro-cloud-services policy is a positive step for many governments … even though when taken literally it can seem a bit odd to bias procurement towards one particular sourcing model. The argument that some of the activity under the US government’s Cloud First was perhaps a little inefficient or could have been better planned misses the point that these criticisms can equally be applied to any previous whole-of-government ICT strategy and also that it was strategically necessary to create a more active step change in the ICT reform agenda. Vivek Kundra was exercising Leadership with a capital “L” when he used Cloud First to “kick the hornet’s nest” of government ICT procurement.

Cloud first needs to be a practical journey, not an ideological quest

Ovum’s recommendation to agencies since 2009 has been that the most important way to transition safely into cloud services is to get started – to gain ‘hands-on’ experience. Proverbially, “it takes two to tango”. Vendors need to develop and mature their cloud services capabilities to meet government’s needs … and need projects to do so. Agencies need to unlearn some traditional ICT thinking, learn some new internet-age, more agile, thinking and gain some new skills. Actual experience of implementing and managing cloud services is critical for organisational learning.

From this perspective, it is a mistake for central agencies to focus too much on writing largely theoretical policy guidance and seeking to control agency adoption of cloud services. The bias needs to be towards encouraging adoption in prudent applications and workloads, sharing experiences between early adopters, showcasing successes, solving significant policy obstacles and creating enabling frameworks. Cloud services adoption is all about making trade-offs between different forms of benefits and risks - and these trade-offs require practical experience of outcomes.

Cloud services are actually a paradox for whole-of-government ICT strategy. They are highly centralised, shared services that deliver economies of scale and innovation in a decentralised manner to individual agencies. Agencies can act unilaterally and still achieve the benefits of centralisation without the need for a mandated “forced march” by a strong central agency. Indeed, the paradox is that an over-controlling approach from the centre may be the very thing that discourages agencies from taking advantage of the centralisation benefits of cloud services and slows cloud adoption.

The bottom line is that a cloud first strategy should focus on creating action and organisational learning in agencies – not just documents and cumbersome centralised procurement arrangements.

It is time to kick the ICT procurement Hornet’s nest in your agency

The problem for all national, state and local government jurisdictions in the ANZ region is that the current approach to ICT is becoming increasingly untenable due to a growing mismatch between demand for ICT innovation and the ability of agency ICT departments to supply innovative projects. Ovum’s view is that many agencies are stuck in a game of “snakes and ladders” – unable to make sustainable progress in the maturity and sophistication of their ICT capabilities.

The rate of failure of ICT-enabled business change projects is too high. Too many projects take too long and are too expensive. ICT procurement and risk management processes create increasing layers of bureaucratic checks and balances that obfuscate accountability and increase project timelines and costs. Internal strategies of consolidation, rationalisation and standardisation and shared services have delivered mixed results – in many cases further increasing project timelines, costs and risks and in some cases causing total project failure. Assets are ageing and their replacement is unfunded because depreciated allowances have been raided for other purposes. To make matter worse, fiscal constraints are further compounding the stresses and technology is changing more quickly than the agency ICT departments can keep up with. The challenges appear to be moving beyond the reach of incremental and tactical refinements of ICT procurement and ICT management practices.

In essence the value of cloud first is that it authorises, and even requires, senior agency executives to look beyond the constraints that are driving the snakes and ladders game of ICT management. A cloud first stance authorises them to ask the question “is there a better, more agile, way to use ICT to achieve our policy and service delivery outcomes?” Can we just buy and use services that are already proven to work in the cloud rather than building customised systems and running them ourselves?

This value, however, is only apparent if one first opens one’s eyes to the reality of the unsustainability of the status quo and the fact that we really do need to accelerate the introduction of a fresh approach to ICT in government - as well as in the economy.

Dr Steve Hodgkinson is Research Director IT Asia Pacific for Ovum. He was born in Invercargill, studied at Otago and Oxford Universities and now lives in Melbourne.

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