Does BECTA Enterprise Software Deal in UK Signal Channel Changes?


Back in August I wrote How Come We Buy 21st Century Enterprise Software the Same Way We Did in the 20th Century? The catalyst for the post was the fact that the British government-associated educational consultancy BECTA had announced a major software procurement process that would relate to:

  • Over $100 million in spending (at 2008 exchange rates) over four years.
  • Include both proprietary and open source software.
  • Include operating systems, network software, security and maintenance and enterprise resource software, but not educational software.

Based on this breadth and depth, I thought BECTA might introduce some new ways to acquire enterprise software.


And I still hope it may sometime in the future. But in September BECTA announced its selected suppliers, and it turns out the approach is still to acquire 21st century enterprise software the way software was acquired in the middle of the 20th century: Buy it from services suppliers rather than software suppliers. At least systems suppliers did not make the list, which is the real old 20th century way of doing it.


The list of winners does not include any household-name independent software vendors (ISVs). In fact, only a few of the 12 IT suppliers selected "to enable educational establishments to obtain software licenses" actually develop software themselves. Only one appears to offer its own unique packaged software; a few develop software on a consulting basis.


The BECTA "winners" would be more accurately considered distributors, value-added resellers (VARs) or consultancies. Most distribute, add value or consult on entire solutions including PCs and other devices. Further, most are not in business specifically to deal with the education market. One seems closely connected to Microsoft and another to Red Hat, but in general, these companies let you "do it your way" in terms of vendor, features, functionality, pre-requisite platform, technology, architecture, license terms and conditions, and the other characteristics that most IT people use to compare and contrast software.


I would rather see software acquired using a new approach: Make it as easy as acquiring electricity. In the 21st century, you want it all a plug-in away.


IT Business Edge has recently posted a two-part article (link to part I) on how you can take advantage of the channels through which software gets to market.