As farfetched a vision this may seem, the change in attitude towards Cloud in local government over the last several months is astounding. Just 12 months ago, when we started going around local authorities offering free consulting on how to move their services to the emerging industry, we frequently were met with blank stares, or at best nods and grumbles about security problems and the challenges. A frequent questions was: What's cloud? Even 3 months ago, AT A CLOUD conference, I have been surprised by the level of negativity towards the cloud. Many saw it as a threat, to their staff numbers, their department, or even their own jobs.
Vendors were met with the lack of trust, and out of 90 odd people, two have followed up, despite the fact that were offering FREE work. Clearly, there legitimate concerns, and watch out fo future blog posts on those.
The election result it seems, is changing the negative outlook. As more cuts get demanded, more ICT managers get inventive. Before you used to see option papers consisting of 2 options:
- based entirely on one dominating software vendor, with the intro and the pros / cons written by their re-seller (you know stuff like on " Benefits side", "this is the best package, world leading, offers 70% saving in productivity etc..., and on the "Risks" side something like - well you risk that you workers will work too hard with our product, sometimes our product has been accused of being too good etc...)
- Open source alternative, which contained more risks than benefits, had pages about how it's a good idea, but could never work here, etc...
Now, we are starting to see a serious push towards other options, and more importantly, a serious examination of underlying demand. Don't get me wrong, a full, comprehensive, market leading bells and whistles productivity package might be great if you use it, but in Local Government, barely 1% of users are even aware of the features it offers, let alone utilise them. These kinds on commodity applications are 30-40% of S/W budgets, and it seems the austerity measures are stimulating people to go back to the business and ask the "feature" questions: do you need this to be able to solve "Binominal Theorem" equations in your word document? have you ever used automatic "Turabian style" referencing features?
Then there is communications and collaboration. There is even wider choice here. We now ran 6 e-mail pilot projects over as many months in local authorities. Only 2 have not involved new vendors. The lure of having bullet proof AV, back up and other options are overshadowing concerns about the routing and firewall changes.
Further, the ERP (non-CRM) systems get a serious look too. We recently had a demand signal about someone wanting to trial and pilot an ERP solution spanning HR, finance and payment systems. Fantastic news!
All of this movement is building to the attitude I believe is required in today's climate: look at your needs in terms of capability you want, not applications (We can help you do that). Look at your total costs of ownership (include the soft features in this - we can help you do that and compare Cloud / in-house on like for like basis). But most importantly - adopt the key slogan of innovation: Ask for forgiveness, not permission.