PICSE Wizard facilitating cloud procurement for public research organisations
Optimising the public procurement of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is important for two reasons. Firstly, maximising cost savings on the EU’s annual ICT expenditure of €100bn+ is a key goal. Secondly, purchasing power could be wielded to drive innovation and competitiveness in the ICT market, which in turn will create jobs and spur entrepreneurship. It is therefore paramount that public bodies know how to procure ICT efficiently and responsibly, promoting competition and innovation in the ICT industry and making the best use of public funds.
With the rise of cloud computing, the consumption of ICT services is going through the same fundamental change that has occurred in many other markets and is now consumed as a utility. Initiatives such as Helix Nebula have demonstrated that cloud services are also suitable for scientific workloads and public research organisations could benefit from procuring cloud services on a significant scale. However, while cloud services continue to proliferate and evolve rapidly, institutional procurement processes and policies of many research organisations have not evolved at the same rate. They are therefore unsuitable for the on-demand model that comes with cloud computing. As a result, public research organisations face institutional barriers in procuring services from cloud service providers.
In order for public research organisations of all sizes to take advantage of the best the cloud market has to offer, a more flexible and agile procurement model must be identified and implemented.
In order to create a procurement model (that is a template document describing all the steps necessary to purchase goods and services) suitable for cloud services, it is first necessary to understand how public research organisations are currently purchasing ICT services. PICSE has carried out extensive desktop research and has consulted with the main European public research organisations to identify the five main steps that are typically part of the standard process for procuring ICT services in the research sector (See D2.1 Research Procurement Model):
- Planning & Preparatory phase (including the market consultation);
- Selection of the most appropriate procurement approach;
- Implementation of the procurement approach
- Contract Award & Negotiation;
- Contract & performance management/monitoring.
So how is cloud computing impacting standard ICT procurement processes?
- Procuring innovative services, such as cloud services, requires new skills and competences, as with any new, innovative technology.
- Many cloud services are not designed flexibly enough to enable cloud service providers to respond to Invitation to tenders or Request for quotations easily. Rather, they are built as take-it-or-leave-it on-demand services.
- Calculating the financial benefits and costs of migrating to the cloud is different from a standard ICT purchase, for example, organisations find it difficult to do, especially if they do not have analytical accounting processes. Also, the risks inherent in non-cloud systems are often taken for granted.
- Legal or policy issues may be encountered e.g. applicable law, data location restrictions, data protection, etc. and taken into consideration in the early phase of the procurement process.
- Security certifications, covering network security, data protection, privacy, data and service portability, and interoperability are to be considered when identifying the cloud solutions to purchase.
- A standard legal and contractual framework for cloud services does not exist. The contractual & negotiation phase could be complicated and critical.
- Performance & billing monitoring systems have to be put in place.
These challenges have an impact on all five steps of the procurement process.
The result of this analysis has allowed PICSE to put together a first set of cloud procurement models, which describe the procurement steps in a cloud environment:
- Commercial procurement
- Joint procurement
- Pre-commercial procurement
- Public procurement of innovation for procurement of innovative services
The procurement models are described through checklists that are also the basis of the PICSE Wizard, a web-based application that public research organisations can use to obtain guidelines on the most suitable model for procuring cloud services, to make a self-assessment and evaluate their procurement procedures. Each checklist comes with a set of recommendations & tips. The PICSE Wizard has been designed to support IT managers & procurers in charge of the procurement of cloud services in public research organisations and is available at wiz.picse.eu.