A few days ago I had a quite interesting conversation with an IT service provider that is in the process of ascertaining the business opportunities created by government 2.0 or open government programs and initiatives. What is high on their priority is to identify products and respective partners that would give them a competitive advantage in this market.
But is government 2.0 really a market? What are the products and services that potential clients would buy and how would they contribute to those clients’ success?
The trouble is that there is no such thing as a clear value proposition for government 2.0. The gut feeling is that it is the right thing to do, it is either unavoidable or useful or both. But turning this feeling into a business case to invest in a particular toolset or to acquire specific services, well that’s a different story.
Of course there are areas that look like a market:
- open data development and operation, including all it takes to locate, assure, clean, publish and maintain public data on web sites like Data.gov.
- enterprise collaboration platforms, such as Sharepoint, Notes, Jive and many others
- electronic consultation and participation, with tools like IdeaScale or Google Moderator
- development and implementation of social media based communication strategies
The problem is that government 2.0 can be all or none of the above. And, most importantly, as the value creation is a discovery process and rarely something that can be planned, there are very good reasons for most government organizations to spend very little, close to nothing, on tools and solutions, and to leverage as much as possible inexpensive and consumer tools.
While vendors have no problem in accepting the idea that clients want a proof of concept or a pilot before moving to real deployment, they are less happy with the proposition that clients keep using those inexpensive tools forever.
But this is the risk with government 2.0. As the value creation path is unknown and changes over time, and the place and pace of collaboration and engagement is determined by constituents more than by government itself, there is a good reason to stay in “pilot mode” for quite some time, and – in some cases – forever.
So, if this is the case, where is the market? One could argue that there are lots of opportunities for consulting and services. But who are the players who really get this stuff? Indeed there are evangelists and prominent public speakers with all large vendors as well as some of the specialized, niche players (I won’t name any names, but many of them are active twitterers). However, when it comes to identifying service providers who are leaders in this space, I am not sure there are any.
Reality is that government 2.0 has to rely on internal government skills and capabilities more than on vendors, be they consultants, system integrators, software developers, communications specialists. Of course there is a role for all these in helping through the transformation process, but one cannot “outsource” to the market what has to become a core competence. But government 2.0 is about redefining the entire value chain (or, better, value network) for most government services and operations.
My contention is that only those vendors who are able to help their government clients understand and execute on the above will thrive by positioning their “traditional” offerings in these redefined value networks. While there might not be any real government 2.0 market, government 2.0 will definitely change the way government clients look at (and consume and buy) IT and business services.