Ultra Lean Government – Open source best practices and the Cloud

Open innovation and open source innovation: wh...

Image by opensourceway via Flickr

Last week the USA Federal Government held their second Cloud Computing workshop, to help advance uptake of the technologies through ongoing maturity of Cloud open standards and best practices.

To maximize the success there is a call out for more use cases, more examples of how the technology can be successfully adopted so that others may replicate this.

This highlights the ideal role of Cloud technologies as an enabler of ‘Open sourcing best practices’. These use cases can be encoded as repeatable Cloud modules, and shared globally.

Efficiency through Open Innovation

A key strategic goal of this effort is an improved ability to define and control VfM – Value for Money.

The USA spends $80 billion a year on IT, with x% being spent on servers and storage capacity that is unused. Cloud Computing offers one immediate stream of business benefits of cost savings in this area through its elastic nature.

However while this will certainly yield big chunks of change, really the full magic of the technology will be realized through its ability to unblock “Innovation Gridlock“. It’s the ability to enable agencies to adopt new ways of working, quicker and for less cost, that improve service to citizens that’s the real value driver.

Yes this is a vendor marketing term but it’s also a very real effect. Much of IT spending is driven by the traditional approach of acquiring monolithic enterprise applications in ‘one big bite’, very large systems like SAP or Siebel, that cater for all the workflows needed for government business models, like welfare payments.

It can take many months if not years to specify, procure, deliver and roll out this big elephant, and this speed => the level of organizational agility. As they take on more and more of these so this congeals and grinds to a crawl.

The end result is that fewer agencies are supported in adoption of new technology, fewer agencies are improving how efficiently they operate their processes and so forth.

Community Clouds

In the Canadian Federal Government plans (slide 12) they also list SAP, OpenText, Oracle and Microsoft as the vendors they are looking to integrate into their ‘Community Cloud’, which they use for the same big core systems like payments.

That’s why it’s impact in this area that’s key to Cloud becoming an essential ‘transformative’ technology common to all governments, with the key to this being harnessing the community effects of open source approaches, as well as the technical architecture.

For example it’s no surprise the Cloud program is tracking alongside the key business drivers that are modernizing these processes in a similar manner, Open Government, like the Open Government Data workshop for next week.

The Open Data trend is interesting not just because of the ongoing improvement of data interoperation through open standards, but more so because of the nature of how it utilizes different, more dynamic organizational models for software engineering. It’s these that are key to unblocking the innovation traps.

It’s the same type of approach as open source software, but with the essential difference that they’re coding around live data from government systems. In essence they are programmers working for the government, extending their software systems to provide new functionality, but for free and in a much more dynamic manner.

The net effects of this trend are new, ultra-lean approaches to government processes, and how they are created and maintained by IT. Online communities can harness ‘crowdsourcing’ for much faster, more collaborative workflow patterns and similarly the underlying software can be developed via the same model.

Model Driven Agility

Ultimately what will drive adoption of Cloud Computing are new business models.

Improvements first in how Social Welfare, Healthcare or Economic Development might be accomplished, using innovative new technologies, that can then be scaled up and out through Cloud Computing.

This might first be pioneered in Toronto, and the full value of Cloud will be when this same model can be easily repeated in any other location, and Cloud Computing lends itself to its own development this way.

For example the Open Virtualization Format caters for ‘packaging’ Cloud Applications in a manner reusable across any Cloud provide in a portable manner. Furthermore other key impact areas will include ‘private SaaS’ – Providing smaller agencies with these new tools via an internal SaaS model because they lack their own IT resources to operate them.

This mechanic is the fundamental value of Cloud IT systems, and driven by global sharing of best practices will see IT finally move into a leadership role of driving strategic organizational change.

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