The danger of believing in silver bullets

The push is on for everything-as-a-service, but don't fall into the trap of believing it can solve all your problems.

Whether it is losing weight, getting rich or managing government IT, it seems we can’t resist the lure of a silver bullet. The magic pill. The easy answer.

Ten or 12 years ago, I remember a lot of talk about leasing and reverse auctions, and how they were going to transform everything.

Since then, outsourcing and insourcing have risen and fallen from favor. Performance-based contracting was going to be the solution to everything. And what about the huge systems integration projects like Deepwater?

They start with a bang and end with a whimper, or in some cases, a moan and a whine. And of course, along the way, millions and even billions of dollars get wasted.

I think we are in the midst of another silver bullet phenomenon with all the talk around cloud computing and everything as a service.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that these technologies and methodologies are powerful and will change how government agencies operate and how government contractors serve their customers. They are good ideas.

But there are dangers, and the biggest one is the perception by many that this is easy, or is a path for government agencies to abdicate responsibility. That just moving to the cloud is going to solve an agency’s problems.

This really came home for me when I read one General Services Administration official's comments in an FCW story about how GSA is looking to buy everything-as-a-service.

This is what he said: GSA wants to use the cloud model “where you pay by the sip, and then you’re done with it and the relationship is over.”

That last part “and the relationship is over” is what stopped me.

Is it really in the government’s best interest to spend tons of money with someone, and then declare the relationship over?

Cloud computing and everything-as-a-service are new and exciting and very promising, but the government seems to want to just shift responsibility and risk to the contractors. The attitude seems to be “managing and running our IT is hard and expensive, so let me pay a set rate and I can wash my hands of it.”

It’s the government’s newest silver bullet. And frankly, I think a lot of contractors and vendors are trying to sell it that way because they know many customers like to hear easy answers.

But it’s a horrible approach to managing IT.

In fact, the opposite should be true. The cloud and everything-as-a-service should open up the relationship, not close it.

Many of the problems in government aren’t problems with technology, but problems with processes and resources. Cloud computing and everything-as-a-service aren’t going to fix those problems. But they should foster more dialogue between government and industry on how to solve those problems.

They are tools for improving IT governance, not a silver bullet. Like werewolves, the silver bullet is just a myth.


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