Friday, August 19, 2011

This is why we can't have nice things (in government)

Last year I wrote about how enterprises could leverage tablet applications like Flipboard in order to change how senior leaders received and actioned their business intelligence.

After sitting on the idea for a year I established as a foothold to try to help bring the app to market (note I'm pivoting on the role of the site, it will now be an outlet for creative writing).

Trying to get an app built meant hitting the streets and talking to a number of established mobile development companies and start ups, it also meant stumbling
on what I think is one of the core reasons why we can't have nice things in government.

As for the reason? Well it's painfully simple.

Plainly put, companies that make beautiful things don't consider enterprise solutions as a viable market. The CEOs I spoke with all cited four reasons why they have steered their businesses clear of enterprise solutions:

  1. they tend to require a bunch of integration work (work that is often different from organization to organization and rooted in its own technological evolution);
  2. integration work is difficult to scope in advance and thus hard to determine what would constitute an appropriate resource level (and thus the price of the contract);
  3. dealing with enterprises often entails hiring a sales guy to do the grunt work. The people I met with are skilled developers and shrewd business people, they don't want to be out shilling their wares; they want to build applications and services that are so beautiful and useful that they sell themselves.
  4. No one wants to invest any effort into the procurement process. If you aren't a big vendor you simply don't have the resources, expertise or established relationships to successfully navigate the world of procurement.

While many of us on the inside already know that there are procurement challenges (ever try to procure a Mac?) I find the fact that the innovators in the private sector feel as though the procurement process itself is so broken that they can easily afford to purposely ignore the entire public sector. In the midst of the establishment of a new Shared Services Canada, I can only hope that those at the helm take a good hard look at the details around how we procure IT resources, because it may just be one of the reasons why we can't have nice things in government.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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