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The Impact of Cloud Dynamics in The Public Sector

The Impact of Cloud Dynamics in The Public Sector
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Editor's Note: This article is part of our Future of Business Technology series which focuses on what is happening to business today as a result of technology, and in turn, what's happening to the economy, the job market and IT careers.

There's a reason that governments have difficulty with sharing information.  They haven't been shown how. 

Information systems for any government, of any size, have developed in much the same fashion: certainly organically, but without a common sense of direction and purpose.  Because governments are, at least on paper, accountable to their citizens, the requisitioning process for IT resources takes place in a very transparent manner, with such excruciating detail as to ensure that very few of those citizens take a close interest.  Specific departments and agencies are given discretion to request the purchase of IT resources and services for their own exclusive purposes, which are spelled out explicitly and posted on a public bulletin board.

"IT strategy," such as it is for governments, is simply explained:  One requests what one needs, and one hopes the purchase is eventually approved.  Then the purchased item is put to use until it is fully amortized, and often for several years afterward.  A corporation has the luxury of being able to choose a strategy it trusts, and stick with it for the long term.  But any single strategic direction for government information technology tends to give the appearance of favoritism.  It cannot follow a trend with the promise of future, untold rewards.  It does not have the incentive to stake out a competitive position for itself against other governments, lest it present the appearance of launching a costly and undesirable "arms race."  Instead, it must present specifications and ask multiple vendors to meet them -- not exceed them, not change them, not persuade the agency to take an uncharted course.

Sometimes, governments are bound by law to select the least expensive option, regardless of whether a more expensive one offers greater value.  Sometimes a government binds itself to selecting no option at all when only one exists.  And when a vendor offers something... close to what an agency's specifications entail, but not exactly matching, even if the offered alternative is significantly better, a government forces itself to look away.  Some cities will actually fine a vendor for failure to adhere to their requirements for format, scope, and context.

Cloud dynamics has the potential to radically alter the way governments procure, provision, and deploy IT resources.  But that assumes they are open to change from the inside, which is completely contraindicated by the historical evidence on the table.

Scott M. Fulton, III has chronicled the history of computing as it happened, from the unveiling of the Apple III to the undoing of MS-DOS to the rise of the cloud.  Scott was one of the original online managers of the Delphi network (you remember modems, don’t you?), part of the original editorial team of Computer Shopper (you remember paper, don’t you?), the Senior News Editor at Tom’s Hardware and the original TG Daily (you remember... never mind), and for four years served as managing editor of Betanews.  He’s the author of 17 books and over 5,000 articles printed worldwide in multiple languages.  Scott also appears as contributing technology analyst on NTN24’s Ciencia, Salud y Tecnología.  So basically, he has at least one finger in just about every medium, in hopes that maybe one of them will take root and bear fruit.  You never know, something could happen.  His fingers are crossed.  (Which could explain the typing problems.)  While he’s waiting, Scott and his wife Jennifer, herself a best-selling author (where do you think he gets it?), run Ingenus, LLC, an editorial services provider for technology and higher education publishers.  Right now, their daughter is probably on Tumblr telling her friends how Dad keeps finding something new to go wrong with his VCR. You can follow Scott on Twitter at @SMFulton3.

See here for all of Scott's Tom's IT Pro articles.