Monday, March 4, 2013

Cloud computing - Software as a service SaaS

With the IT infrastructure in place in the cloud, managers need to make use of their functions for the delivery of IT services.  Besides computer hardware in the cloud, computer software could also be put and operated in the cloud.  Computer software are usually referred to in two levels.  One is the basic operating system and utility programs generally called the platform.  Upon the platform, computer applications are developed and implemented for the delivery of specific services.

The cloud could offer both as a service: PaaS Platform as a service and SaaS Software as a service.  PaaS could be viewed as a part of the IaaS, that is, the software part of the infrastructure.  As such, the platform is provided as a common service in the cloud.  Managers could take the platform in the cloud as granted and freely make use of its functions for the implementation of departmental applications.

Besides the technical platform for operating the hardware, OCGIO announced that she will make use of a common platform for supporting common e-government applications across departments.  They include a new user directory service for unified identity management, communications and collaboration that complements the government electronic messaging system.   Managers may be glad to hear that the tedious work of managing user log-in accounts, user identification, email accounts may all be replaced by a government-wide common system operating from the cloud.  Departments may need to follow strictly the procedures set by OCGIO in the common system.  This is a great step forward in the integration of communication in the government and a great relief for managers.

OCGIO also announced that she will develop shared services for a portfolio of applications, including software to support electronic information management, human resource management, electronic procurement and support for paper-less meetings.  Operating from the cloud, these software will be common to all departments, but with specific emphasis on individual data and circumstances.  Managers have been working on such systems for a long time.  OCGIO attempted in the past on developing such common applications for all departments, but failed.  Each department seems to have her own special requirement.  A common cloud application could be a way to force departments to adopt and change.  I would raise a word of warning.  Beware of the impact of the change when adjusting the age-old manual system to fit into the new cloud-based system.  The problem is not the technology but the requirement to change human working habits.  But EO are expert change agents.  We could bravely face the issue.

Then there are the most important departmental IT applications to be implemented in the cloud.  Each case is unique and the usual steps of system analysis and design are required.  Managers are the user side.  The technical part is contracted out.  In this connection, OCGIO has shortlisted a number of qualified service providers for the supply of SaaS common commercial software as a service.  Initially, these providers will provide cloud services under four categories: Productivity Applications, Business Applications, Cloud IT Services, and Social Media Applications.  Manager would have to negotiate with the providers, or refer departmental officers to them for the development of specific applications.

One remark on financial management; managers would be required to budget for the expenses of engaging contractors for the provision of cloud computing services.  From the scale of the applications on the list of selected services, the cost would likely need to be absorbed in Departmental Expenses.

 

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