Compare and contrast, if you will, the average purchasing processes for two different sorts of technology in many businesses today:

Mobile telephony services have become truly commoditised. Organisations select on the basis of price and perceived value (handsets on offer, consulting services and so on). Rarely does quality of service come into it: I’ve known a fair few organisations see a sudden decline in reception coverage for staff in the office and at home, particularly when shifting from 900MHz operators (O2, Vodafone) to 1800MHz ones (the company soon to be formerly called EE). Issues of security are a given.

Compare that with purchasing a Software as a Service. Here organisations with established IT organisations are still prone to delve into issues of security and assurance to the nth degree. Where is data stored? What security measures are in place? Who has the keys to the server room? What’s their inside leg measurement?

The way in which many organisations attempt to procure Cloud services today still is based on assumptions borne of the era of computing when everything was in the “server room”. If we were to procure mobile telephony services in the same way, we be asking questions about types of kit installed in base stations, why there was no two-factor authentication on phone unlocking, and more. And those green pillars and boxes that litter the pavements of roads in the UK where the mobile operators store a significant proportion of their network hardware? Well, those would never pass muster.

What’s the difference? Well, it strikes me there are a few things.

First of all, telecoms providers are heavily regulated. We assume, for example in the UK, that OFCOM is watching them for us. I have no idea whether that’s the case or not.

Secondly we’ve been doing it for a while. We are used to purchasing telecoms services in this way, and we’ve never really had alternative models to purchase on. Running your own mobile network was never an option.

Finally, I think in many cases we still don’t think of telephone contracts as computing. Even though that’s what we mostly do with them. We just don’t subject them to the same scrutiny as a result.

Use of SaaS continues to grow, but we are still a long way from where people are acquiring services with the fluidity of something like a mobile contract. The barriers, though, are business and cultural ones – not technical.

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