For a few years now, many people in the IT industry have permitted themselves a quiet smirk whenever the G-Cloud word has been mentioned. G-Cloud is a government IT initiative, launched in 2010, to raise the take up of cloud within the UK public sector by commissioning, persuading and cajoling suppliers to develop an internal-to-UK government cloud capability. Although G-Cloud has presented its own challenges to the industry, it has created benefits for businesses to gain more business value from cloud.
The UK government has now decided to adopt a different approach to G-Cloud, and they have got it spectacularly right. In a case of practicing what you preach, with a minimum amount of fuss they have set up a directory of suppliers on the cloud (http://www.govstore.net/) who are in the business of providing cloud solutions of one sort or another. I must declare a vested interest here as PA Consulting is one of the suppliers in the directory.
What the government has done is to grasp a number of things about cloud that the private sector would do well to emulate.
Firstly, there are many cloud offerings on the market and it can be hard to discover what they are, let alone work out which ones to deploy. The government has focussed on making it easier for public sector organisations to learn about which commodity cloud solutions are out in the marketplace, and therefore to make it easier to procure them.
Secondly, the initiative does not try and bite off more than it can chew. It focuses on doing one thing well which is to provide a single directory of cloud services. It doesn’t attempt to provide any portal for procuring any of these services, and most importantly it doesn’t attempt to mandate a special set of government only services. If the market wants to provide specialist public sector services it is up to the market to come to that conclusion itself.
Thirdly, the site does not attempt to, or pretend to be perfect; which is why it is labelled Beta. Fourthly, a lot of the site is accessible and just as relevant for the private sector which also faces the same issues of trying to discover what cloud services are out there. This then becomes an initiative intended to increase efficiency in the public sector that could also help the private sector.
Finally, this is a nice example of an organisation seeing an opportunity to improve the value of the services they provide and turning to the cloud to make the opportunity a reality, cost effectively and in quick time. Just the sort of thing the cloud is good for.
Consider the gauntlet to have been thrown down. Irrespective of whether you are a public sector or a private sector organisation, use the new G-Cloud initiative as an example to inspire you to do something that creates business value from the cloud more quickly and cheaply than previously possible.
Alastair McAulay is a cloud expert at PA Consulting Group.
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