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9/13/2007
12:11 PM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
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Is Government Finally Moving Toward SaaS?

Government and SaaS have not mixed due to three major concerns: First, governments consider their business processes to be very specialized. Thus, neither packaged applications nor SaaS-delivered applications can meet their expectations. Second, they see their security needs as going well beyond what SaaS can offer... Finally, there is a clear control issue... they want to hug their servers.

Let's face it. The government and SaaS have not mixed. This is largely due to three major concerns:

First, governments consider their business processes to be very specialized. Thus, neither packaged applications nor SaaS-delivered applications can meet their expectations.

Second, they see their security needs as going well beyond what SaaS can offer. In some cases there are laws that limit their ability to send information outside the firewall.

Finally, there is a clear control issue around SaaS... they want to hug their servers from time to time.However, according to this Barney Beal article, some government agencies are taking another look at SaaS.

"As government agencies are taking a closer look at CRM technology to manage their relationships with citizens, they're naturally eyeing the concept of Software as a Service (SaaS) as well. SaaS, typically considered faster and less expensive to implement, might seem a natural fit for government agencies. Yet public agencies have lagged behind the private sector in warming up to the deployment option."

The key issues here are cost and budgets. While many put off looking at SaaS due to the issues mentioned above, the cost of SaaS and shrinking budgets are driving many government agencies to seriously consider SaaS as a viable and less expensive alternative.

Driving this is the availability of killer SaaS applications such as Salesforce.com and Right Now, as well as tactical SaaS offerings, such as the ability to validate identities and addresses, and other services that may be required by the government that can be delivered on-demand. Moreover, you can't argue with the success of the commercial sector when it comes to SaaS. The cost savings, lower risk and speed of implementation are well known at this point.

However, all things are not that cut-and-dried. Integration is required when SaaS and the government mix, considering that most of their existing applications won't go away. From the article:

"Another huge issue goes to integration... There's a large number of existing government systems that aren't going to be thrown out and replaced next week, simply because of the numbers involved. Making on-demand more flexible in the way it integrates with government systems is a challenge."

Indeed, most commercial organizations that leverage SaaS are wrestling with the same integration challenges. At the end of the day, integration of anything is more ugly and complex than you might first imagine. Also, integration adds some cost, and thus reduces the value of SaaS in some instances.

Needed is a clear and concise strategy for implementing SaaS within government agencies, including integration. From there you can consider cost and advantages. If SaaS still comes out on top, then you should make the leap... government agencies included.

Application integration and service oriented architecture expert David Linthicum heads the product development, implementation and strategy consulting firm The Linthicum Group. Write him at david@linthicumgroup.com.Government and SaaS have not mixed due to three major concerns: First, governments consider their business processes to be very specialized. Thus, neither packaged applications nor SaaS-delivered applications can meet their expectations. Second, they see their security needs as going well beyond what SaaS can offer... Finally, there is a clear control issue... they want to hug their servers.

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