One of my clouds just vanished

I woke up this morning to a flurry of tweets about Google’s announcement that they’ll be killing off Google Reader in a few months time. If you haven’t used it, Reader is a neat tool which brings together feeds from websites which you want to follow into a single place, and it works nicely with apps like Flipboard to create a personalised online magazine of useful information.

Now, this announcement is a pain but not the end of the world. But I do expect that it’ll cause an even bigger flurry of people warning against the perils of cloud services altogether. After all, if the provider can just decide to pull a service which you rely on how can you trust the cloud (and particularly public cloud services) with your business critical functions?

For some time though a host of wiser advisors have been giving straightforward advice about the things to consider when you look to the clouds for your services, and steps you can take to do this safely. And in reality these are much the same as the steps we need to take when planning to buy any sorts of services, whether they’re cloudy or earth-bound.

Making sure that you know how you’ll get your data back and carry on without the service are a key part of planning your strategy. And so is making sure that you understand the business strategy and stability of your provider before you commit to buy from them — especially if the services are for business critical functions.

Reader evaporating is a good reminder of the dangers of cloud naivety. Cloud has lots to offer on a personal and business level. It’s just key to remember that nothing’s perfect and that understanding how you’ll manage risks and continuity is a key part of innovation.

Getting agile in #localgov : with a bit of help from G-Cloud

[This first appeared as a guest blogpost on the G-Cloud blog]

Technology is changing fast and we’re excited about the potential that this offers for us to improve the way we deliver services. This couldn’t have happened at a better time given the urgent need to sustain local services while we deal with substantial budget reductions. Lambeth’s new ICT strategy sets out our vision to enable our users to be productive from any device, anywhere, any time, and will see us focusing on using the cloud, mobility and apps to make this happen.

We’re not naive, and we realise that some business processes and legacy architecture will take more time and work before we can move them to the cloud, and we also know that given the speed at which technology is changing it will be easy to make expensive mistakes if we’re not careful. An agile approach to delivering our strategy is essential and we are prioritising focus. We have already started to migrate some of our key services such as email to the cloud, and we’ll be redesigning the way we do things to give us as much flexibility as possible as we move forward, avoiding long contract lock-ins where we can.

An example of how we can use innovation to make a real difference for our customers is our work to make tablet devices available to our users. Our pilot work has shown that this will help our frontline teams deliver much more personal and responsive services — increasing their productivity and cutting out paperwork and bureaucracy. Successes we want to build on include the services we provide to homebound library users who our home visitors can now help browse the catalogue online and check books in and out while they visit them, and vulnerable children whose social workers have reduced the time it takes to complete key work by up to 14 days through removing double entry of information.

The technology for securing information on mobile devices is changing fast and looking forward we want to switch the focus from trusting devices towards managing applications and information to provide the security we need on any device so that we can give our users genuine choices (this article helps to explain how this might work). This is going to be a work in progress for a while though, and to implement a viable model which we can use to rapidly make tablet devices available to a wider user base we need to get started by deploying a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution which will let us protect the information on these devices. With that in mind we want an MDM service based on subscription charging which will allow us to secure devices, scale up and down easily, and keep the flexibility to change our approach as the available technology and our architecture changes. This is a perfect opportunity for us to take advantage of the cloud to deliver rapid benefits.

We like the price transparency that the Cloudstore offers us and want G-Cloud to be our first port of call for cloud services. Buying this way challenges some of our traditional thinking and approaches to procurement, and we are currently getting ourselves ready by working with our legal and procurement colleagues to make sure that our procurement processes are updated. The G-Cloud guidance to buy without further mini-competitions leads to more than a few quizzical looks, but I’ve been really encouraged at the readiness of non-IT people to take the time to understand this new approach and am confident that by getting this preparation done now we’ll be ready to move quickly once G-Cloud 2 goes live.

We’re looking forward to using G-Cloud as part of delivering our strategy: MDM providers please get started with your application process now so that we can buy your services!