How government contains software waste

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

How government contains software waste

Can you guess how government ranks on software waste? While no sector contains software sprawl better than the pharmaceutical industry, government impressively ranks second, outperforming other industries such as insurance, technology, energy and education, according to a study about software waste conducted by 1E, a UK-based software lifecycle information firm.

According to the study, software waste is software that has already been purchased and deployed to end-users’ desktops, laptops, or workstations, and goes unused for at least 90 days. The waste is caused not just by poor software asset management but also by organizations’ general approach to IT. In many industries, CIOs have deprioritized cost-cutting and focused on adding value.  Reducing software waste, which is seen as a cost-cutting measure, therefore often gets neglected.

So how  is it that government seems to be able to control software waste? Two key measures have contributed to this feat:

1. Sharing of applications, allowing software customization

Federal agencies spend in excess of US $6 billion each year on software. Inefficiencies arising from overlapping systems, complex and cumbersome environments, low asset utilization and time lags in procurement, lead the government on Aug. 8, 2016, to issue the Federal Source Code policy, requiring agencies to share all the applications they have developed and are currently in use, along with their source codes.

“The U.S. Government is committed to improving the way Federal agencies buy, build, and deliver information technology (IT) and software solutions to better support cost efficiency, mission effectiveness, and the consumer experience with Government programs,” U.S. CIO Tony Scott said in the memo announcing the program. “By making source code available for sharing and re-use across Federal agencies, we can avoid duplicative custom software purchases and promote innovation and collaboration across Federal agencies."

When agencies do not find the existing IT applications that meet their needs, they can build a new solution. What’s more, the government is also following an open source approach by sharing portions of the code with the general public.

2. Migrating to the cloud
The cloud first initiative drawn up by the Obama administration five years ago, is now bearing fruit. Although some agencies will continue to use legacy applications, all the newly developed systems will settle in the cloud, yielding economies of scale and reducing what otherwise could result in software sprawl. The shift to cloud computing will also help aggregate application demand, which in turn will help reduce duplication of software development and dissolve silos. Migration to the cloud also releases human bandwidth, which can otherwise be utilized for strategic and high value projects.

Close to thirty cents of every IT dollar that the federal government invested in 2010 went into the building and maintenance of data centers, without significant benefit trickling down to the public.  Now with cloud computing, spending on data center infrastructure can be cut by 30 percent, resulting in $20 billion in savings.

“All of these agencies have a ton of data, and it’s too expensive for any individual group or office to develop its own infrastructure to host that data,” said Jim McGinn, CTO for Blue Canopy. The CIA’s move in 2013 in choosing AWS for building its secure cloud prompted other other agencies  to investigate using the public cloud for storage, networking and computing.

Extent of software waste

Gartner puts the global figure of annual software wastage at 320 billion Euros. The United States itself inadvertently contributes $30 billion to this wastage – an amount estimated by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to be sufficient to wipe out the scourge of hunger globally. Such an amount, if saved, can be channeled into research for innovation or deployed for any constructive purpose.

By embracing open source software and cloud computing, agencies can cut their software waste and redirect that money into innovation and customer service.

About the Author

Lucjan Zaborowski is the head of digital for 1E.

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