Cloud migration vs ‘digital sovereignty’

In 2020, competing trends in the global technology market will put European organisations’ digital sovereignty under more pressure than ever, argues Dale Murray, CEO of SalesAgility…

In 2018, the EU introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which set out key principles for organisations on how to use customer data ethically. These principles related to lawfulness, fairness and transparency; purpose limitation; accuracy; storage limitation; integrity and confidentiality; and accountability.

As a result, European businesses are taking their data security and storage arrangements more seriously than ever before. Digital sovereignty – the control an organisation has over its own systems and how customer data is gathered, processed and distributed – is now a key concern.

However, in 2020, governmental institutions and companies in Europe are facing the very real risk of losing control of their data. This is because European businesses and customers also transact with countries all over the world, many of which are not bound by the provisions of GDPR. This situation starts to create some pressures around the concept of ‘digital sovereignty’.

Lost in the cloud

The number one trend in business IT in recent years has been the migration of software, systems and data to Cloud-based platforms, often platforms from major vendors based in the US. However, with the growing popularity of relocating to the cloud, we are creating growing dependencies with a small number of large US firms, which threaten the digital sovereignty that the principles of GDPR seeks to ensure.

Do users of cloud services retain full control and transparency over their customers data? What’s more, if you are using proprietary software which inherently limits your control over the data, interfaces, source code or jurisdiction, can you honestly ensure digital sovereignty for your own customers?

Open for business

At my own company, SalesAgility, we believe open source is key to decentralising the web and taking back control of data from the big tech firms. Open source software (where the source code is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to study, change, and distribute the software) is usually developed in a collaborative public manner.

The main barrier to open source adoption over the years has been its historic reputation, i.e. that the open source community is made up of independent developers coding from their mums’ basements, but thankfully, in 2020, things have moved on.

Today, open source is big business. Linux servers, of course, have been in use for many years. Microsoft acquired GitHub in 2018 for $7.5 billion; IBM bought Red Hat last year for $34 billion. Most of the software we use today has some element of open source within it. If you have an Android phone or a WordPress website, for example, they are running on open source software.

Taking back control

So how does open source enable businesses to be digitally sovereign?

Firstly, only open source can guarantee full control and transparency over their application and data. Crucially, with open source there is no vendor lock-in. You have freedom to choose who hosts your data (on premises or in the cloud) or choose to support yourself.

By providing standard open source software for standard services and problems, we reduce the effort to provide ‘commodity’ services. The open communities around software share knowledge and skills, reducing pockets of proprietary knowledge.

From a security point of view, you have visible access to the code base to run your own security audits or compliance checks.

Another look at open source

For organisations of all sizes, there are many reasons to take another look at open source. For growing organisations, for example, open source allows you to scale-up without simultaneously scaling-up user licence costs.

CRM data is the heart of any organisation and a good place to start for most. With open source CRM, organisations can ensure their vital data is completely within their control. Organisations could then look at utilising open source solutions for groupware services such as email and document storage (side-stepping proprietary cloud solutions such as Google Drive in the process), analytics, security, and basically anything that consumes, stores or processes customer data should also be considered.

More generally, European organisations and public institutions need to assess their IT strategy and look at opportunities to embed open source to maximise innovation and enhance data security. At a government level, it doesn’t make sense to fund the development of proprietary software and create dependencies that we can’t easily escape.

If, instead, government funding was devoted to investing in open source projects, public money would be spent for public good, providing more control and removing our growing dependencies on overseas tech giants that consume huge volumes of private data as a business model.

As a regulatory powerhouse, GDPR was a great stride into the direction of digital sovereignty but there’s more to be done. Europe should be looking at open source not only to reduce their total cost of ownership but also as an enabler of digital sovereignty and data privacy.

About the author

Dale Murray, CEO of SalesAgility, studied Software Engineering at the University of Stirling before joining SalesAgility as an intern in 2011. Within his first month, he was made permanent, stepping into a role as Analyst Developer before moving into a number of consultancy and business analysis roles, where he was responsible for delivering CRM transformation projects for SalesAgility’s customers.

In 2015, Dale was promoted to Head of Consultancy, where he built the firm’s consultancy team from one person to six full-time consultants operating globally.

At the age of 27, he was appointed to the role of CEO and is now responsible for the company’s strategic growth plans and initiatives. Leading and guiding its senior management team with passion and determination, Dale creates and manages the roadmap of how SalesAgility can achieve its goals and vision whilst ensuring the company’s culture reflects its core values of transparency, flexibility and collaboration.

About SalesAgility

SalesAgility is an expert in delivering open source CRM solutions worldwide to organisations of all sizes, on time and within budget.

In 2013, SalesAgility launched its core open source CRM solution, SuiteCRM, and has since launched other key open source CRM offerings, including Suite:OnDemand and SuiteASSURED. Its technology offers clients a crucial 360-degree view of their customer base, enabling them to understand customer habits and tailor marketing activity accordingly.

SalesAgility offers a more tailored and bespoke service to its clients at a lower cost than its competitors, and is currently 96% more cost effective than its biggest competitor, Salesforce.

SalesAgility is a truly open source business, with transparency, flexibility and collaboration at its core, and has ambitious plans to become the world’s most adopted CRM system.