SharePoint and the Public Service: when common sense goes up in smoke

I’ve just read a Management Today supplement about West Yorks Fire Service. Remember how Public Service budgets are meant to be getting cut back?

The Public Sector should think about value - not building empires!
Well, it sure doesn’t seem like that’s the case, if this is a typical Public IT project. Based on what they’ve chosen, I reckon half a million’s gone up in smoke.

It should have cost a tenth of that – and it’ll only reach 60% of their users…

Fighting fires in their server rooms – not for the public

Support public front line staff. That’s something we hear a lot about these days. Well, West Yorks Fire Service will be spending its time supporting its servers.

There’ll be quite a few, too, now its got SharePoint, Exchange and SQL Server. Money that should have gone on protecting the Public.

The Service had already tried SharePoint 2007 but it wasn’t really being used. Instead of finding out why, they installed SharePoint 2010!

Going SharePoint isn’t trivial. It won’t stand alone, so you need SQL Server, too. Paying out for more servers is simply adding fuel to the fire.

Forgetting about their core services

Out went all their old Novell kit – and in went Exchange and a Windows domain. “Wait a second,” you say, “aren’t firemen mobile?”

Yes, they certainly are. That means access via phone or Internet. Not back office. Surely, the alarm bells should have been ringing?

Given that the Fire Service has to liaise every day with so many other bodies, wouldn’t a mobility-focussed, Cloud solution have made more sense?

Well, that’s something clearly that wasn’t considered by our Public Sector friends. Rather than look at the requirement, they focussed on a product.

Adding a burden of support – and a burden of cost

The Fire Service now supports a room full of servers, monitors, network switches, firewalls and UPS power to keep it all running – and it needed none of it.

They’ll need back-office IT support staff – people who cost far more than firemen. And they didn’t need them, either.

Admin staff can support Cloud solutions – that releases money for their front line.

Back Office today not fit for purpose

Firemen don’t spend much time at base. They’ll be on call, inspecting buildings or fulfilling some other civic duty around their area.

Like any other mobile employee, they need to stay informed and in close contact. Some just need a compact device like a phone – others a tablet or a notebook.

The Cloud is already delivering these services – 3G and GPRS are Cloud based. Doesn’t it make sense to provide the services in The Cloud, too?

The Fire Service got drawn in to a totally Microsoft solution – something more designed to make money for the consultancy partner than the service.

The focus on providing information to where it was needed was completely lost. What’s the point of storing data if no-one knows its there – or can access it?

Here’s what they could have won

Cloud allows rapid deployment of pre-built services to users wherever they are. Cloud document management has a star player – KnowledgeTree.

KnowledgeTree currently costs around £2,500 per year for unlimited users.

Exchange is a back-office behemoth – it’s designed for Outlook, a desktop client. Browser based, Internet mail makes more sense – like Zimbra!

Zimbra is priced per mailbox and works out around £36.00 per user annually.

Service delivery – not empire building

The Public Sector is obsessed with big metal deliveries. Value’s often forgotten. This “my budget’s bigger than yours” attitude must stop.

They must focus on strategies for delivering services, not building empires.