I honestly do not know what is going on with next generation Glow and I fear that there is something murky lying at the bottom of these troubled waters. I was part of the whole options appraisal that took place during January and February and, whilst I don’t know the actual stats, it was pretty clear that there was a tangible leaning towards the big G in informal feedback gathered during the sessions. I can only assume that the survey numbers confirmed that.
And so here we are, now in May and ever closer to the big switch off of our beloved(?) Glow on September 15th with the announcement from Google that they are withdrawing from the procurement process. There is something funny going on.
I am scratching my head a bit here. What has happened? I worked for the Glow team until a month ago and I have no idea what is going on with this Glow business. If you had asked me two months ago, I would have waged my mortgage on Google taking forward the next generation of Glow. It seemed so clear and obvious that the options appraisal had gone overwhelmingly in Google’s favour with the Microsoft offering being found (in general and via informal chats with testing users) to be corporate and complicated when compared alongside the suite of Apps from Google.
I am certain that Education Scotland would have recommended Google as the preferred solution and I would have thought that we would have had a pilot process well underway by now. The timescales for this were achievable. They were tight, don’t get me wrong, but they were just about achievable.
Instead, the team’s plans for piloting went on hold week after week after week. The Government was maintaining a peculiar silence on the whole thing and none of us knew what was happening. Events with LAs had been arranged and announcements were expected, but time after time the silence prevailed. We then get the announcement of procurement from the Government and I can’t help but see the whole process as back to square one. I may just have been too far away from the decision makers to get an informed understanding of necessary process, but I had thought it has been clear for some time that the only options being appraised were Microsoft and Google and that, as soon as a preferred option were apparent, a recommendation would go to Scottish government and they would make the decision and choose a new Glow.
I will be honest here, I preferred Google’s option too. I did an incredible amount of testing and playing in both appraisal environments and I was overwhelmingly of the opinion that Google was the better option for the education community in Scotland. I cannot provide specifics, but I came across nobody who preferred Microsoft 365. And I spoke to a lot of people.
I cannot help but be suspicious about all of this, especially in light of this week’s announcement of withdrawal by Google. I think Google might just have been shafted a bit here. Google offered a product for testing, any users who I worked with liked it a lot and that must have been clear in the survey results and recommendations that went to Scottish Government. One can only wonder at the reasons for stalling on the whole process. Where is the democracy in this?
I had been leaning towards favouring an independent Scotland. I like Alex Salmond and I feel that he represents Scotland very well in any media coverage and debate he is involved with. I had seen him as honest and a man of integrity and I felt that, if Alex Salmond believed in it, then it might just be quite a good idea. This present situation with Glow makes me feel suspicious of government to such an extent that I find myself questioning my political beliefs.
Maybe it is just the case that Scot Gov IT decision-makers are so entrenched in the corporate world dominated by Microsoft that they cannot contemplate anything a bit different. Maybe they have pals at Microsoft that they don’t want to let down. Maybe they simply don’t understand education.
After the September 2011 Mike Russell video starting this whole process of #eduscotict dicussion, there was a gathering excitement about the way forward. There was almost universal agreement on what needed to happen and there was a lot of thought and chat and enthusiasm. I genuinely believed that we had an opportunity to bring together the diversity of opinion on Glow. Its critics and fans were united in talking about going forward to make it better. The hashtag has now slowed and the excitement has petered out and I can’t help but feel that an opportunity has been missed.
Whatever the heck is going on in the background, it doesn’t smell too good. With this withdrawal from Google, I would now stake my mortgage on Scottish Government paying RM a small fortune to extend their service provision until they get Microsoft 365 in place as the next Glow. The latest promised announcement is allegedly due by the end of this month but there seems to be only one way it can go now.
And you know what, fair play to Google for jacking it all in they way they have done. The rest of the education world is debating Google Apps over Microsoft 365 and, whether you are Googling or Binging, a web search reveals a heavy leaning towards the former. Perhaps Google sensed the Scotland-wide solution wasn’t going to go their way and their Google Apps for Education Fast Track Site is a brilliant way of fighting back against whatever is at play here. Google claim to have received a lot of interest from Local Authorities in this proposal to set up Apps at local level, as opposed to nationally and, if that is the case, I cannot help but think that Google might have the last laugh here.