Tad Baranski, Business Development Director at Anite Public Sector discusses the advantages of Applications Service Provision.

Everything we have done before is wrong! Software is a service not a product - in a few years time, nobody will buy software.

For nearly all my working life I have been involved in Housing Management or helping to specify and develop information systems for Housing Managers to help them deliver a better service.

Specifying, tendering, evaluating, contracting and implementing a core business system is a long and costly affair. Hardly surprisingly most Housing Managers keep their core accounting, allocating and repairing software for about 10 years before starting all over again.

Perhaps there is a bit of the "After all this I want to get our money's worth out of it" but Housing and Information Technology are changing far too quickly for this approach to be relevant any longer.

We need to be asking new questions:

In short….

Why can't all my business software be a service rather than a product?

An "Applications Service Provision" (ASP) allows a wider range of "ownership options" for those of us that wish to take advantage of newer solutions and capabilities including the ability to use systems that are provided on a service basis only.

The users pay for what they want, when they want it and decide which capabilities are needed and for how long. Effectively they are renting the business solutions they want, when they want them without up-front investment.

The Applications Service Provision could be via an outsourced management arrangement or simply used on a service basis (" just like the old bureau were…" I hear you say!)

This allows users to avail themselves of new capabilities as soon as they feel they are beneficial rather than when you feel you can justify the cost. This applies equally to relatively straightforward issues such as upgrading to Office 2000, or much more major initiatives such as implementing a new resource accounting system or a whole new integrated Housing Management system.

The benefits for the customer of Application Service Provision include:

In addition, there is the increasing need to support the delivery of aspects of the service "electronically". An Application Portal is a "door" to personalised, on-line content, typically via the Internet. It may be linked to an Application Service Provision as a service to all citizens. It allows web browser access for the public to relevant sets of personalised information to make enquiries, log a repair, register an application, contact other providers, etc.

An Application Portal can do more than simply allow a provider to meet government driven initiatives regarding electronic communication. It can facilitate:

Delivering "Best Value" services within the Government's "Modernising" agenda is a key opportunity for us all. I believe that serious consideration of using Application Service Provision and also providing "Portal" access to relevant parts of information is critical to this challenge. In a few years time, nobody will buy software.

Application Service Provision and "Portal" access are the future.

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