By Julian Bajkowski
Computing and services stalwart HP has made a bold pitch for new government business based on the prospect that savings as deep as 75 per cent can be carved from software and infrastructure running costs bloated by duplication and non-standardised deployments of Microsoft’s SharePoint platform.
The acquisitive mega-vendor on Wednesday officially launched its new combined services, infrastructure and consulting offering that offers public sector and corporate buyers locally hosted, cloud-computing delivered software and infrastructure services that can be bought on a utility-style ‘click-through’ pricing model.
“Sometimes technology gets out of control. Most organisations have SharePoint out of control. The proliferation is worse than SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] at the moment in most organisations,” said HP Enterprise Services’ straight-talking vice president for the South Pacific, Alan Bennett.
Mr Bennett should know.
He previously headed the services vendor’s government and defence business in Australia from when it was still known as Electronic Data Systems, the multinational outsourcer founded by Ross Perot in 1962 that helped deliver whole of government technology outsourcing to Canberra and South Australia.
Having bought EDS in 2008 for US$14 billion, HP has been busily trying weave its various offerings enterprise grade into a cohesive and compelling offer for the public sector.
The latest stab at making itself indispensible to the government market is dubbed ‘Next Generation Information Worker’, which HP says delivers a ‘Business Platform as a Service.’
Behind that unwieldy jargon, its main selling point is a big promise to slash technology complexity and costs.
In plainer English, the company is offering a highly-standardised, one-stop-shop to wrangle Microsoft’s entrenched information management, communication and collaboration software, particularly SharePoint, that is notorious for the disparate ways it is deployed – a situation that impedes different parts of the government working together at a systems level because of inconsistencies in applications that essentially perform the very similar functions.
The ‘NGIW’ offer can also be bundled and pre-integrated with HP’s Trim records management software, a longstanding and locally developed favourite of government departments that the multinational vendor acquired when it bought Canberra based Tower Software.
HP’s new deal for government comes at a time when many state and federal departments and agencies are deeply frustrated by the comparatively poor productivity and pricing value they are getting from incumbent suppliers who have thrived on big, up-front capital costs for software coupled with annualised software licensing payments – even before savage budget cuts.
What makes the NGIW platform more notable is that it was developed in Australia and is slated for export – as opposed to developed in the US and then dropped onto Australian clients to localise and customise.
HP says it has been working extensively with its government and corporate customers to come up with a platform that actually meets their needs as technology and market demands change.
To drive this point home, HP is pushing the fact that it undertook an extensive ‘co-design’ process with 13 state and federal agencies in Australia to deliver a ‘holistic’ solution that they needed and want.
So far only the Department of Defence has outed itself as a user.
HP’s other local executives were not mincing their words when it came to spelling out the pressing case for change.
“The people that we spoke to in co-design resoundingly expressed their frustration and intolerance of the current state which is they don’t have open information access, they have to navigate across siloes of information, they have to pull together disparate back end clunky applications,” HP’s Asia Pacific chief technologist and innovation leader for enterprise services, Debra Bordignon said.
“If you are going to deliver open data and open government you had better get your data quality and data governance at the back end right – or its simply too risky and a disaster waiting to happen. They [government] only share the stuff they have properly secured,” Ms Bordignon said.
“Most of our clients when we do surveys have between 15 and 22 duplication of every single object, that’s not going to help people get much meaning or insight out of information, is it?”
HP’s local CTO also took issue with how siloed information management makes it tough for large organisations who are compelled to have records management systems.
“In compliance centric industries like government, financial services and telco they have to do records management, but they hate it. They often fail to be able to achieve the compliance outcomes they are looking for,” Ms Bordignon said.
She said that under HP’s new model, best practice lifecycle policies were automated “under the covers” so that “end users don’t need to think about records management again.”
The contentious and subjective issue of the usability of records management systems has also been treated to an extreme makeover by HP.
“We have completely beheaded some of the ugly user interfaces that you get,” Ms Bordignon said.
“There’s a huge opportunity for us to think about standardising business common processes across an industry. Why do government agencies spend so much money creating exactly the same capability from one agency to the next.”
Ms Bordignon said that her clients had already had a “big red-hot go at SharePoint”and often “tens of millions of dollars” later “in a lot of cases they are still not there.”
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