The year that was - bromance, naked ambition and the NSA

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan December 30, 2013

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So, picking up on Phil’s Retrospective tendencies this week, the last day of the year seems an appropriate time to look back at a handful of highlights from the past 12 months - or rather the last 8 months since our diginomica journey began. (Is it really only 8 months?)

On the cloud

It was the Year of the Cloud Bromance - as old adversaries Larry Ellison and Marc Benioff, Larry Ellison and Microsoft, Larry Ellison and well, most of the industry except Workday really, sought to reach a new understanding.

In the week in which he promised to reshape the cloud, Larry palled up to NetSuite (not exactly unexpected of course), smooched alongside Microsoft and Obi Wan-like welcomed back his very own Anakin back into the Oracle fold. May the Salesforce.com be with you! (Actually this analogy isn’t going to end well for anyone is it, so I’ll probably drop it there…)

Of course, some of us were alarmed that this outbreak of peace would mean a lot of the fun going out of the industry - by which we meant childishly the name calling and the public spats. No more roach motel snarks? No more ‘beware the false cloud’ jibes? Unthinkable.

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Detente

It wasn’t to be of course. By the time we got to the eve of Oracle OpenWorld, Salesforce.com was publicly plighting its troth to Workday and while attacks on the rivals weren’t a signature of that mega conference this year, we end the year perhaps with an incipient Cold War rather than the full blown antics of yesteryear.

But for now, the detente holds as we saw with Oracle’s latest set of financial results where the competition-baiting was kept to a few broad stroke references to Workday.

One part of the bromance detente that didn’t materialise was Larry’s putative appearance at Dreamforce, an invitation accepted on that conference call between him and Marc back in June. But given that Larry didn’t make it along to his own keynote at OpenWorld, perhaps we should hardly be surprised. (I know I’ll get criticised, but I still have more sympathy for him over that than most do perhaps, although it was a PR debacle from a customer relations PoV. But it was the ruddy America’s Cup - and at least he won it in the end!)

Coming up in 2014? More of the same. With Oracle’s Responsys takeover announced before Christmas, the stakes were upped again in the Marketing Cloud battle. What will Salesforce.com’s response be? Or Adobe’s?Or Infor’s?Or Marketo’s, the original marketing cloud?

One resolution I’d love every vendor out there to make would be to decide that we no longer need to hear that Gartner reckons the CMO will be the IT decision making powerbase by yada yada yada. You all know the prediction by now. If you don’t, you must have successfully avoided every enterprise software keynote pitch in 2013. Enough already! We get the message. Personally while I buy entirely into the notion that line of business becomes more and more a critical factor in procurement, the focus on the CMO is too limiting to further that argument much more.

On the NSA and naked opportunism

Hero or zero? Whatever stance you take, Edward Snowden’s influence over the year has been undeniable. The exposure of the National Security Agency’s surveilance programme resulted in a lot of genuine outrage, some ludicrous posturing from those who should know better , naked political opportunism in Europe and some dire - and so far, largely unfounded - warnings of the death of the cloud computing industry.

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Kroes control

Phil Wainewright and I continue to disagree amicably over some of the actions of the European Commission in this heady mix, but as time in office runs out for some of the more strident exploiters of this international scandal, expect the tone to get even more piously outraged in the months to come in an effort to push through legislation that frankly hasn’t been put to test rigorously enough.

I’m pleased to see that to date the UK government has chosen to maintain its traditional stance over Europe of being a pain in the butt. I was particularly irritated during the year by EC digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes’s cavalier and patronising dismissal of national cloud computing strategies, such as the UK’s G-Cloud initiative.

I find myself on side with the UK Cabinet Office’s stance that what Kroes and her chums propose will simply prop up the interests of the existing big suppliers and do little to kickstart the European cloud industry that we’d all love to see take shape. You don't build innovation on prohibition, regulation and sheer commercial jealousy.

The political home front

Here in the UK, we’ve been fortunate enough at diginomica to talk to some of the most senior decision makers and influencers in the UK public sector, including Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude , Chief Operating Officer Stephen Kelly , Head of the Government Digital Service Mike Bracken - Mike Bracken CBE thanks to the New Year’s Honours list - and outgoing head of the G-Cloud programme Denise McDonagh.

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Crisis? What crisis?

All have been instrumental in their way in pushing through the digital transformation efforts across the UK government sector. These have delivered some encouraging short-term financial gains in terms of cost cutting, but the real challenge of course comes with the longer term objective of changing culture.

And across the face of UK government IT in 2013 hung the long dark shadow of Universal Credit - the latest high profile, big ticket IT debacle to join a long list of shame across the years.

UC is a vitally important piece of legislation - regardless of your political perspective - and literally cannot be allowed to fail. It’s destined unfortunately to remain a key topic of focus for 2014. It would be nice to think that it emerges this time next year as a great example of how to turn around a sinking project.

It’s New Year’s Eve - let’s go out on a note of optimism. Plenty of time for reality to kick in on th other side of the bells…

Verdict

Happy New Year from diginomica to our readers and our partners!

 

Disclosure: Oracle, Salesforce.com and Workday are premium partners of diginomica. Marketo is a partner of diginomica.