The UK Govt could be kick-starting a revolution. Its motives are sincere, but has it laid down clear enough ground rules?

I’m not sure why but the arrival of the Government’s Cloudstore, a new portal for public sector bodies to procure software, got me thinking about the “Comparethemeerkats” campaign. Bear with me…

Even if you are suffering ‘meerkat fatigue’ I don’t think many would argue this campaign has made a dull subject (price comparison websites) somewhat entertaining.

And without wishing to offend those who spend their lives processing public sector tenders I wonder whether there is something to be learnt from this approach. Many people would agree that the mere mention of ‘Government Procurement’ would be a powerful sedative. I’m not sure what the Cloudstore equivalent of meerkats would be, but surely greater emphasis should be placed on properly promoting the service so that both buyers and the SMEs who are meant to benefit from access to Government procurement maximise the opportunity?

While the tone is generally positive there are outstanding questions. Mark Say’s article in the Guardian worryingly saw an admission from Phil Pavitt, CIO at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC): “How big departments are going to use it (Cloudstore) has not been fully thought through…"

At the very least the Cloudstore signals an intention from Government to act upon long harboured aspirations to move away from expensive, long-term IT contracts and enable more UK small businesses to overcome the bureaucratic nightmare that is Government procurement.

As Stuart Lauchlan suggested this could be a quiet revolution. Yes many of the well-known vendors have made it onto the list, but the message is fairly clear. Be prepared to deliver short-term contracts and strip away the complex implementation costs or we have alternatives. It could be argued that the mere suggestion of alternative is enough to focus minds and deliver greater efficiencies for the public sector (and us taxpayers).

Perhaps when we look back on it we’ll see this decision as one of those moments when Government intervention sparked a truly revolutionary moment.

Question marks

However, the Government’s approach does leave a few questions unanswered. Stuart pointed to learnings from the US’ project on Cloud Computing, which shows there is a lot more to consider than simply listing an application  or service on a portal. Likewise Clive Longbottom welcomes Cloudstore, but recognises that the public sector has to embrace it if it is to be successful.

From my perspective the key questions are:

Buyer/end user education and empowerment:

Using a service from Cloudstore will never be quite as simple as Amazon or the Apple iStore, but it will be consigned to history as another Government-backed dodo without significant investment in buyer education. If we look at SaaS adoption it has often seen end users circumventing frustrating IT policies to use the software they want. While I’m sure central and local Government departments will have checks in place to prevent a ‘free-for-all’ Cloud Computing should empower users and buyers to make choices. But how do they choose between the solutions on offer? What considerations should affect their decision? 

Integration:

Of the 250 vendors already registered on the Cloudstore 50% are supposed to be small businesses often providing just a point solution or at best a suite of similar products. In the main they will be built on one platform, such as Solidsoft on the Microsoft Azure platform. They do not have the resources to integrate their offerings with those of all the major vendors. That is a problem, because central and local Government have invested heavily in IT and cannot afford to discard these legacy systems. So how does the Cloudstore administration ensure smaller vendors can integrate as effectively with existing solutions to ensure the playing field is truly level?

Marketing:

In any industry if a buyer has to choose between a known entity and an unknown one it is no surprise they usually go for the safe option. With Cloudstore there has already been some debate about how the vendors present their offerings, because it is clearly not uniform. That makes marketing these solutions hard and obviously it is going to be harder for the smaller vendors to compete against recognised brands. With culture of risk-aversion heightened by all the high profile IT failures how is Cloudstore going to help to promote the ‘Davids’ to ensure the Whitehall politicos don’t just pick the ‘Goliaths’ they know?

I do believe the Cloudstore can deliver significant value, but as Michael Krigsman has said many times successful IT implementations are a combination of the software working, the implementation sticking to a mutually agreed schedule using the right resources and the customer understanding exactly what goals they want to achieve through the adoption of IT. 

While the Cloudstore could be the start of something the spectre of the ‘IT Devil’s Triangle’ still looms large and these fundamental issues have to be addressed for it to a long-term success

@cairbreUK

The world can be full of contradictions and online stores going offline is another example. Some of the biggest names such as eBay, Amazon and Google are leading the way back to traditional roots.

With commentators at the start of last year announcing the end of ‘bricks and mortar’ stores, what is the reason for this fast turnaround? In my humble opinion it is the shopping experience. Love them or hate them physically stores can (I emphasise can) give a more fulfilling and satisfying experience than offline. I realise that online shopping is quick, simple and saves fighting the crowds but who has not bought something online and then been disappointed either because of the fit, look or size? We have all been there.

‘Bricks and mortar’ stores allows customers to touch, try and god forbid socialise with others which is just not comparable to the online shopping experience. However as we are all aware the online experience is hardly on the decline with record online sales this Christmas. In December, Amazon announced that 1.4 million orders had taken place on their website on Cyber Monday alone and on Christmas day itself 186 million pounds was spent online in the UK. Shopping online is quick, easy and hassle free, so it is no wonder that traditional offline stores are turning to non-traditional means to encourage shoppers in-store. House of Fraser is luring customers into their stores by offering free WiFi in-store; Marks and Spencer’s ‘brick and click’ campaign combining in-store and e-commerce offerings as well augmented reality changing rooms at Topshop that save queuing for the changing room.

It seems that the lines are blurring and both traditional and new retailers are seeing the benefit of each other’s position.

topshop

@t_bloore

Lets talk DERTy

Another week, another round of DERTy Talk. If you have clicked through from Google expecting a lewd and suggestive game of Chatroulette you may be disappointed. Apologies for that. We wouldn’t want you to think you’d wasted your time (it’s all traffic to us) so here is a song especially for you.

So what has been happening in the Digital Entertainment, Rights and Technology space this week? Well…

Digital Entertainment

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The Dicdataship takes hold

OK. So not technically entertainment, but a couple of useful, and beautifully stylised, data pieces. First, from the Guardian, an interactive “Europe in Numbers” to co-incide with #CMS. Secondly, from Google the first of their Think series. This one is dedicated to data – so enjoy the feast. We talk a lot about every company is a media company. Google here proves, once again, that some media companies are better than others.


clip_image004Disney like you’ve never seen it before

A couple of wonderful Disney videos this week. A day in the life of Disneyland Paris, filmed with a Tilt-shift camera, is possibly one of my favourite things ever. As I said at the time “like a Slinkachu playground of awesomeness. The second film, is almost certainly Disney as you’ve never seen it before. A satirical take on the life of a modern day Princess.

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An Epic music video:

Russ Chimes a DJ/Artist created a 3 part track called “Midnight Club” accompanied by a trilogy of music videos each telling a different part of the story. They are shot beautifully and each stands alone as a great piece of video. They are unlike most other music videos and at the same time unlike most other story telling videos online. Take a break and watch this amazing story and marvel at the production.

http://www.vimeo.com/15224524

clip_image008From an epic music video to a not so epic one:
Rebecca Black has been vilified in the press for being cheesy and having a terrible music video. Fair enough, but it was made on a £1,200 budget and she has made upwards of £15,000 so far and sold 37,000 digital copies of the song and had over 45 million YT views. In comparison the epic 3 part video above which is infinitely better, has had a paltry 2 hundred thousand views.

http://bit.ly/hAiTgH

clip_image010And a final piece of beautifulness…

It’s all gone a bit ‘entertainment’ this week, but we had to share this video made on behalf of airline network, Star Alliance. The lovely paper animations were commissioned to highlight the work they’re doing to preserve the destinations they’re flying to (by giving free tickets to scientists and field workers). The video shows 5 very impressive commissions. Lovely stuff.

Rights

IS Pleasing to see

Interesting report from Rob Andrews, following a panel at Changing Media Summit regarding ISPs bundling existing and white-labelled music services.

Technologies

WINtendo

This week the Nintendo 3DS beat all previous records to become Amazon UK’s most pre-ordered console to date. The number of pre-ordered consoles is double that of the Wii in 2006. Going on sale tomorrow (25th) the glasses-less 3D games console has had mixed reviews, with questions over whether 3D really adds anything to the experience but this clearly hasn’t put people off. The question is, once the novelty of 3D gaming has worn off, will the momentum continue.

Tweets from the team

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@AJGriffiths: Interesting on fashion brands & ‘gamification’, awful word but a hot topic – http://nyti.ms/fvkFvg via @rachel_arthur http://bit.ly/g45BZ7

@AJGriffiths: Adidas joins the 3D Projection band wagon, nice but no Ralph Lauren http://bit.ly/eAjxuo

@LukeMackay: Stylised movie posters http://bit.ly/fQoBG5 LOVE Wall-E http://bit.ly/hqWkqa Jaws http://bit.ly/fNB5HV Back 2t Futurehttp://bit.ly/gYvi93

@LukeMackay: Coca-cola and Maroon 5 and an interactive wall. I don’t really get this but I’m intrigued at least http://bzfd.it/fUA4y3

@GLeney: Amaze RT @wonky_donky: retro heaven…. RT @Matt_Muir remember Game & Watch? play every single one, ever, online: http://bit.ly/glgT2A

@GLeney: Immense #tron RT @Sally52N2W: Daft Punk/Tron music R3C0NF1GUR3D http://goo.gl/ZKyJH

Seems like any company with a strong brand and customer base can be a hardware vendor. Hot on the heels of Amazon apparently launching its own tablet, clothing retailer Next is quietly offering a cut-price iPad wannabe.

Amazon has form with the brilliant Kindle eBook but Next has come a little out of left field. It’s all thanks to Android of course, the iPad-baiting open source OS that’s garnering millions of fans and users around the world.

Android’s modus operandi is the opposite to Apple. Android thrives on anyone and everyone playing with it whereas Apple thrives on being a closed shop,  locking users into its hardware, software, content and payment platforms.

Personally I think it’s a stroke of genius. The price point (£180) is massively undercutting the iPad as well as the sprinkling of Android tablets already announced by the bigger technology companies. Next customers get access to a global community of content as well as a (hopefully) decent device for enjoying media. Next gets the kudos of playing in the tablet market and, if it’s smart, a channel through which to pump content and hopefully generate sales. On this point, Next launched its own iPhone app back in February, and you can bet that feedback from that experience led to the development of its own tablet.

It makes you think who else could enter the tablet market. Banks, motoring organisations, football clubs, in fact any brand, company or organisation that has a decent brand, customer loyalty and a sales channel to get the product to market.

So, outside of the big tech hardware vendors, any guesses as to who will be next?

@paulwooding1973

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