Think Digital Partners recently sat down with the head of UKCloud, namely one of the firm’s co-founder and now Chief Executive, Simon Hansford. UKCloud describes itself as “the power behind public sector technology”; to find out more about its story, go here for the first part).
You’ve talked about how we are making a lot of progress in IT procurement reform in the British public sector, Simon, but also how we have what you see as a “long way to go”. What are the obstacles to change for you?
Well, it is, we have to be realistic – I estimate cloud is about 2% of public sector technology in the UK right now, so when I say it’s a long journey, I’m afraid I mean it.
Some of it is structural – the nature of the customer, as it were. For example, some people talk as if ‘government’ were all one thing, when it’s actually 3,000 separate organisations! And a certain level of politics and local rivalries come as part of that – like if one part of Whitehall says it’s going to do ‘A,’ another part will immediately say ‘Well, if they’re doing A, we’re going to do B,’ or, ‘That datacentre isn’t in my county, so of course we’re not going to use it.’ Another buffer is where people need to find things for their special in-house procurement team to do. So we have to live with this politics, at least at some level – it’s not going to go away.
But education has a big part to play, too. I am convinced that as more people start to see what the new breed of SME vendors that have been brought in as part of the process can do, attitudes will start to change.
Again, though, let’s not forget that the journey has started. A market has opened and there’s some transparency and visibility coming in at last.
Why should a customer new to all this trust your company, though, to start this journey at all with?
You might also like
Simple: we’re a true cloud offering, with no lock-in. Departments don’t know why the first bit matters yet, but it does; with us, there’s no set-up fee, you can start working with VMs and storage off our cloud inside 18 seconds. A tip: if the cloud vendor starts trying to push a Project Manager on you, that means it’s not true cloud – they’re busy running round the back setting up the infrastructure to try and accommodate you!
True cloud also means no lock in. Things like AWS and Azure are stacked full of attractive features to get you to commit to them… which is fine, until you realise those great features won’t work on the other one, or indeed any other cloud platform. It’s back to lock-in, to trapping you with their way of doing things forever.
And with us, that also means we’re data agnostic. Police data can connect to social care, welfare data to tax records, if you need it to. They all terminate on our core platform, which should be music to the ears of public sector developers looking to be more standards and Open Source based.
Interesting. Let’s pull it all together, Simon; what do you want to have been achieved in UK public sector ICT by, say, this time next year?
I don’t have a crystal ball, but what I can say is that I want to see more innovation and disruption. To me, they are the same thing – you can’t have one without the other; they balance each other out. I’m also sure we will see that in the sector, driven by cloud, which I fully expect to see ending 2017 with a much higher penetration rate than 2%. From a company point of view, we’ve delivered nine price cuts in three years; as we ourselves get more efficient, I’d hope we can pass more of those savings on to our customers, too.
Whatever happens, one thing remains constant. At the end of the day, a big driver for us at UKCloud, and our investors by the way, is to do what’s right for the taxpayer. I hope the market sees a lot more of that in the next 12 months from us.
A great note to end on – thanks very much for your time, Mr Hansford.