Running after the cloud computing train – your homework for the holidays

We were talking about the Google Chrome book the other day at work. £350 for a machine that boots up almost instantly and weighs next to nothing, and yet it isn’t the must have gift / business productivity tool of the year.

Looking at the Chrome store there appears to be pretty much all the software you need to run all public services, albeit cheaper and nicer looking than what we have at the moment. Applications like Flowdock appear to enable teams to interact with both colleagues and customer simultaneously, solving problems in seconds. There are more CRM, reporting and social media tools than you shake a stick at. The opportunity in government seems massive but so far fairly invisible.

Transparency in government is a big deal and really comes down to the ‘trestle table test’ – i.e. if we started doing business on trestle tables in the street outside our offices what would be different……the answers are many and varied, but to date software has been a restraint on the thinking. Cloud enables transparency as a default.

It used to be the case that business computing trends led personal use but it seems that we are all using the cloud more and more in our personal life. The big difference now is that most of us in our personal lives don’t realise we are ‘floating’ in the cloud. So why isn’t this stuff taking off in our work lives?

Is it because there is a concern about data security? – Many would argue this is now ‘sorted’, and anyway we casually put our own details on-line, along with our financial information (do we really value our customers / residents more than ourselves?).

Is it because the cloud doesn’t work? – An awful lot of people seem to be using it to do some interesting stuff. Relatively little money would need to be invested to get our more exotic requirements satisfied.

Is the real reason we, as leaders, are not promoting this low-cost, quick to deploy technology, just because we simply don’t understand it? I would argue we need to get on the train, or at the very least recognise there is a train and start running after it.

The public sector software market, along with BPO companies are just carrying on doing what they have always done – and why wouldn’t they – it’s good business and few customers are asking for anything else. We need to start to disrupt the market and push for change.

So if you have a free 5 minutes over the Christmas break, Google the Chrome store and try to picture what apps will be on your train. Then in January ask all your current suppliers how they will be using cloud based software in the next 12 months and how much that will save you. We have some catching up to…..

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About iansthoughts

Chief Operating Officer at DEFRA, and former council Chief Executive. All views expressed are my own and not formal policy of my employers current or past.
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