constraintIn the last few days the Department of Internal Affairs has released one of their new products, Office Productivity as a Service (OPaaS), into the ICT market. It is about to compete in an area that is hotly contested and shifting rapidly. Thankfully, for agencies, this service isn’t mandatory.

“Office Productivity as a Service (OPaaS) provides cloud- based office productivity tools available on demand and accessible from a range of devices. The service allows agencies to become consumers of the most up-to-date software without needing to deliver and maintain the applications in-house. It will simplify the management of office productivity software and for a number of agencies will provide a more functionally rich and secure environment.” – Source

Translated. Email and Calendar.

OPaaS has been a glimmer in the eye of DIA for well over two-years with the first delivery date slated to be June 2013, a year ago. It’s a product that is very late to market and competing with a series of heavyweights and is likely to struggle with integration issues. Once again, DIA is building and managing their own product when, in my opinion, they should be stepping back and providing guidance to the government sector instead. Worse, it cuts right across another (better) service being Desktop as a Service (DaaS).

Email is a tough Cloud solution for a range of reasons. Primarily cost. Email and calendar services can be bought for almost zero. In fact, rumor has it that one multi-national ICT company once offered government this service for free. Regardless, the cost of buying email boxes is nearly zero and while I haven’t seen the costs of this service, I would bet that I can find a couple that are cheaper and better.

Once again, DIA has chosen a single supplier, as opposed to other Common Capabilities that have multiple-suppliers, and so choice around functionality is likely limited. Legal or not, this fascination with having a single supplier then mandating (not in this case) really constrains government from the flexibility that multiple choices can provide, often locking them into very long contracts.

DaaS, one of the Common Capabilities that DIA got right, in my opinion, already contains this functionality. Fully-bundled, optional in different flavours, and available from any of three providers.

Already a number of agencies have moved to various email as a service, if you choose to call it that providers, including Google. The horse has bolted.

Finally, email is one of the worst first choices for any company to try and get into the Cloud as a first option. Because of the inter-dependencies that are often built in a bespoke way over time. We know that two-thirds of government agencies already have content management systems (of various flavours) directly coupled to email systems. Integrating those content management systems into a Cloud based email service are costly, difficult, risky, expensive, and take a long time.

So why bother with this? One can only assume politics. It’s been promised to the Minister for over two years and voila! It has arrived.

You have to wonder what the cost of this exercise has been.

DIA released today advanced notice of a request (it’s on GETS) for Telecommunications as a Service. Now that includes the following capabilities:

• Core networks (data and voice)
• Mobile
• Telecommunications applications (including enterprise voice, video and audio conferencing, and unified communications)
• Contact centres
• Telecommunications management and professional services
• Managed security

Which is really strange, because the One.Govt service offers nearly all of those services in one way or other and managed security is covered off by another Common Capability.

Is this then the end of One.Govt? If so, when are agencies going to be notified of that so that they can prepare to deal with that discontinuation? What’s going on here? The notice on GETS is literally a page long, which again, gives no information and no time for preparation.

That’s not unusual though, a friend of mine attended a recent briefing at DIA that sounded rather embarrassing. Several dozen companies are involved in this one and are actually mandated to turn up. She told me the meeting kicked off late, the room was not prepared, people had flown in from all over the country to be told that they really had no further information, that a decision was sitting with DIA senior management, and they’d let them know in a couple of months what was going on.

Hardly professional and frustratingly expensive for suppliers.

Meanwhile, last week saw the CIO summit in Auckland that I spent some time out both in and out of the conference centre. It was overflowing with government senior ICT execs and every opportunity I got I asked a few questions; were they using Common Capabilities, what did they think of them, did they save money, and what were they doing with Cloud?

There were some interesting themes to those questions.

Firstly, most people I spoke too found that the process to access those services was costly and onerous. Signing complex contracts was an exercise in itself and the choosing of a supplier (if more than one) still costly. Many said that the cost of those services could still be obtained on the open market for less money.

Most liked the work that DIA has been doing in the guidance space as opposed to the “do as you are told” space (mandate). Of most value to them is guidelines, strategy, check lists, white papers, and information from a government centric aspect, which saves them massive money on consultants.

Most felt that the entire process of having to evaluate, and often discount, Common Capabilities was slowing their adoption of Cloud and movement of ICT forward in general. The range of Common Capabilities is often believed by a senior management executive to be able to cater for ALL workloads, when the reality is that it covers between 15% and 25%. This means that agencies must first evaluate the DIA product set, regardless of whether they are fit for purpose or not, then write lengthy justifications for turning them down. It’s a political nightmare.

IaaS is certainly seen as promising, however the feeling is that the DIA product is being leap-frogged by cheaper, more flexible, more mature, more advanced Cloud services. Sometimes delivered by the same IaaS providers in a private capacity, which government can’t access because of contractual obligations. Again, some frustration.

The general feeling with Cloud was that if you are doing an infrastructure refresh and you are not seriously looking at Cloud, you’re on drugs. And not the good kind. Most agencies are well down the path of deploying Cloud, particularly at the SaaS layer.

Most execs are embracing the move to broker model with some extremely brave moves by some whereby ICT is being federated back into business units all the way down to the database layer, leaving PaaS and below for the ICT boffins. It’s ballsy, but it’s working.

Come on DIA, you have an army of some of the brightest people globally and locally, drop the mandate, start the guidance and consulting. This constraint on service is not only throttling back agency progress, its also likely to throttle some of our best local ICT companies.

 

 

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