Yesterday I gave a presentation about cloud computing to a group of European clients from central and local government, followed by a workshop facilitated by a colleague of mine. In the audience there were both representatives from different agencies and from the central IT organization that is tasked with rationalization and consolidation of IT asset across the whole of government (and reports into the Department of Finance).
My colleague asked the attendees to come up with sample initiatives they were considering as possible candidates for cloud computing.
After a while the different viewpoints of the central IT organization and the individual agencies emerged quite clearly. The former was considering cloud computing as a means to support a consolidation agenda, such as a single desktop configuration or a single case management tool across the whole of government, dynamically provisioned as cloud services. The latter was stressing the use of cloud computing for rapid compliance with new legislation, as well as a way to have more rather than less choice in areas like desktop tools and case management.
Whereas this particular discussion was productive and quite civilized, it was also exemplary of the ambiguity of the role of cloud computing in government. Those who hold a government-wide responsibility on IT see cloud computing as the ultimate tool for consolidation: whether they operate, procure or mandate cloud-based services, these allow them to exercise maximum control on how individual agencies use IT. Those who are responsible for IT in individual agencies see cloud computing as a cheaper way to meet their needs but also a way to get rid of the somewhat intrusive attitude of central IT organizations.
The confusion about different vendor offerings, delivery and deployment models is compound by widely differing viewpoints and expectations on the user side: after all, when you bring a cloud down to Earth, it becomes… fog.
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