FUD surrounds cloud computing procurement process
Steve Kelman has some reassurances on acquisition practices.
Recently Alan Joch wrote a piece on the FCW website, called "Is Government Procurement Ready for the Cloud?" The piece was one of the five-most read and emailed on the FCW website for two days running.
"Many IT procurement practices and contracting vehicles," Alan wrote, "were designed to help managers provision hardware and software, not on-demand services. Can the current acquisition practices translate easily to the dynamic world of cloud computing?" The article quoted a technical manager at DHS who was worried about the ability of the procurement system to accommodate to cloud computing, though it also quoted Larry Allen, longtime head of the Coalition for Government Procurement, which represents vendors on the GSA schedules, saying he didn't see a problem.
What was frustrating about the article, frankly, was the lack of specifics. The only actual example of a "procurement problem" the article cited was a protest over a requirement in one procurement that, for security reasons, the cloud infrastructure be hosted in the US. That requirement is not a "procurement problem'; it is a policy decision about risk that the procuring agency made. (Maybe the procurement problem was the ability to protest. One may have different views about bid protests, and I am hardly known as one of the great supporters of protests, but this is hardly a special problem the procurement system has in buying cloud computing.)
The article was an example of a genre of statements that one often hears about how rigidities in the procurement system create barriers to buying certain kinds of products and services. Often, these statements are not accompanied by examples of specific problems. They appeal to, and exacerbate, a climate of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) that many in the government feel when they are going to have to deal with the procurement system.
It is possible that there are procurement regulations or practices that throw roadblocks in the way of intelligent procurement of cloud computing services. If so, I hope blog readers will post comments saying what they are -- which will offer progressive people in the procurement system the opportunity to put on their thinking caps to see if ways to unblock these obstacles can be found. But all too often, consumers of the procurement system get paralyzed by worries of roadblocks they think the system creates that in fact aren't there. The fear also makes it more difficult for program people constructively and collegially to deal with their counterparts in procurement or, worse, to avoid the procurement system until the last moment -- like getting an infected tooth pulled -- which only makes things much worse.
Program and technical customers, and folks in contracting shops, need to realize they are part of the same team and to work to overcome the FUD factor.