UNIT4 in UK Gov Cloudstore coup

A week ago, the UK Government launched Cloudstore, a new ‘app store’ to help small businesses offer IT services to the public sector, and to encourage public organisations to purchase services on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis, rather than being locked into lengthy contracts (see BBC news article). The site features over 1,700 apps provided by more than 250 suppliers, and there is already at least one SaaS construction collaboration technology available via Cloudstore: UNIT4’s Business Collaborator (I did a quick search for other candidates, but found none).

UNIT4 already has considerable experience in delivering cloud-based ERP (it is servicing 150,000 users in Sweden with 150 out of 170 organisations being government bodies – news release), while Business Collaborator has been marketed as a SaaS application for over a decade. As I learned two weeks ago, UNIT4 has considerable levels of public sector adoption for its ERP and financial management applications, and I expect some public sector customers will be persuaded to extend their UNIT4 portfolio to include document management and related architecture, engineering and construction-oriented workflows to deliver and manage their built assets.

The launch of the Cloudstore catalogue also marks a strong endorsement of Software-as-a-Service (as well as Platform- and Infrastructure-as-a-Service) approaches to software delivery – something that would have been regarded as, er, cloud cuckoo land just a few years ago. And, as with BIM, a public endorsement of SaaS may well encourage previously reluctant private sector client organisations to follow suit.

In the meantime, Cloudstore is currently working to assure and accredit all the listed products and services. Any government ICT procurer can use the online database to find suitable suppliers without having to go through the laborious and lengthy OJEU route. It’s a coup for UNIT4 to be among the first to be listed, but the framework is also going to be opened to new suppliers and products shortly (March/April 2012), so I suspect other construction collaboration technology vendors will be looking to get themselves added to the catalogue.

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