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While the ‘Cloud first’ policy of the US Government to stimulate the migration to new Cloud computing services is the $80billion gorilla in the industry, the UK’s ‘G-Cloud’ initiative is similarly large, and indeed more comprehensive in its vision for the role the technology will play in transforming government.

Within 5-10 years the program will establish the G-Cloud as the predominant model for ICT delivery in the public sector, involving a wholesale shift to utility services being the norm.

Transform Maturity Model

As such it can act as the definitive reference maturity model for Government Cloud Computing.

The site provides a thoroughly detailed set of documents including materials for defining the strategic business case, governance and commercial models, technical architectures and implementation strategy.

The strength of the UK program is their business vision and the framework for business transformation. Where others have a strong technical bias the G-Cloud effectively links it to a number of strategic policies including their Operational Efficiency Programme, Green ICT Strategy, and in particular the Digital Britain, Building Britain’s Future and Smarter Government.

G-Cloud offers the usual base platform of Cloud-enabled improvements, aiming to reduce costs by £2-4 billion per annum through data-centre consolidation, improving their operations through virtualization et al, but the really huge benefits will come from how it changes ICT procurement models and the compounding effect this has in improving how all of government itself works.

The G-Cloud Marketplace – Breaking Innovation Gridlock

The UK’s strategy offers a baseline of these usual infrastructure-level benefits of Cloud computing, but the really powerful lever of change is the vision for an ‘ASG’ – An Application Store for Government, a catalogue of applications that can be run on a SaaS basis via the G-Cloud.

This is because the key transformational factor is actually not so much about new technology, but rather the changes in organizational models, how IT is procured from suppliers, and how all this relates to economic stimulus. A key objective of the program is to move away from the slow-moving, big bang approach to large ICT projects, that costs many millions and takes years to complete and ultimately causes ‘Innovation Gridlock‘.

This ‘tightly coupled’ approach is being upgraded to one that is based on a marketplace rather than a fixed procurement model.

Rather than a central IT unit being a decision point bottleneck for the acquisition of new technology, the ASG will free up agencies to directly select and operate their own SaaS solutions, where instead of the slow march of the traditional ICT purchase project that can take one, two or even more years to complete, they’ll be able to ‘download and execute’, more or less instantly.

This will enable achievement of critically important business benefits listed in the Strategic Business Case, most notably:

An ability to deliver IT enablement faster

Greater agility through being able to rapidly access greater capacity

Enabling a new, democratized approach to business change and IT enablement, where new ideas and those developed by others, can be easily trialled by a few users

Open sourcing best practices

This last point is the essential ingredient.

Enabling a new, democratized approach to business change and IT enablement, where new ideas and those developed by others, can be easily trialled by a few users

The business benefits of this approach will be compounded by the fact this approach will also enable “open sourcing of best practices”, meaning literally the use of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) but also leveraging the mechanisms of sharing organizational know-how too.

Prior policy work from the Cabinet Office that has fed into the G-Cloud program includes their Open Source, Open Standards and Re-use: Government Action Plan, which sought to help encourage the uptake of FOSS but more importantly enable better reuse of best practices and systems throughout Government.

The G-Cloud will enable acceleration of this effect, as it makes FOSS much more accessible, but it’s the changes in organizational models that will yield the big gains.

The extent to which heavy bureaucracy weighs down the agility, customer service and cost base of government is their primary challenge and opportunity area for improvement. Even before ICT is considered the slow-moving hierarchical decision processes and sheer volume of paper-based forms that are duplicated across different departments to implement their ‘silo’ processes causes a congealing complexity that costs many billions in hard cash terms but much more in terms of how this slows and weakens citizen service delivery.

Therefore it’s the ability to enable agencies to define, share and adopt new ways of working, quicker and for less cost, that improve service to citizens that’s the real and huge value driver of the G-Cloud.

Identifying improvements in how Social Welfare, Healthcare or Economic Development might be accomplished, through new decision models and by using innovative new technologies that can then be replicated scaled up and out through Cloud Computing, will be how true transformation of government is achieved, with the key to this being harnessing the community effects of open source approaches, as well as the technical architecture.

For example the Open Virtualization Format caters for ‘packaging’ Cloud Applications in a manner reusable across any Cloud provide in a portable manner, providing the means to encode and distribute these entire business models, and so ultimately the Application Store will come to represent not just an IT catalogue but an easily repeatable best practices knowledge base, and in the form of a ‘download and execute’ marketplace.

Rather than needing transformation to be driven from the top-down, this will enable organizational efficiencies to spread virally.

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