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Andrew Mellish, public sector business manager of Six Degrees, discusses the decision made by Crown Commercial Services to push G-Cloud 10 live in June, and how it will provide opportunities for new cloud suppliers to pitch for government work
According to UK government figures, sales through the G-Cloud framework reached over £2.8 billion at the end of 2017. SME vendors played a big role in this figure, accounting for 47 per cent of total sales by value and 73 per cent by volume. Overall, 83 per cent of total business was from central government and 17 per cent from the wider public sector.
These figures support the fact that the G-Cloud framework has facilitated the increase in cloud adoption and broadened the pool of SME suppliers for public sector organisations. It is why we welcome Crown Commercial Services’ (CCS) decision to push G-Cloud 10 live in June, providing opportunity for new cloud suppliers to pitch for government work and existing ones on the framework to update their service offering.
G-Cloud and its opportunities for SMEs
Since it launched in 2012, the G-Cloud framework, with its sleek procurement processes, has created opportunities for SMEs to provide innovative, cloud-based IT solutions for the public sector. It reduces time, cost and risks for suppliers and customers, resulting in an attractive solution being procured within a much shorter timeframe.
Essentially, the G-Cloud framework has been the gateway for many SMEs to work in the public sector, securing key business that in many instances has helped to shape them, their offerings and their market approach. But, while G-cloud has done much to open opportunities, create transparency and level the playing field to a large degree, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
The importance of the CCS’s about-turn
The framework agreement for the current G-Cloud 9 was supposed to expire in May this year. But the government took the decision in November 2017 to extend it by another 12 months to give the CCS and the Government Digital Service (GDS) time to ‘deliver a revolutionary transformation to the platform to meet more user needs – both central government and wider public sector’.
This was met with a barrage of criticism from SMEs, who as suppliers are unable to alter prices or update their service offerings, because of the constraint of having to wait until the next iteration is available to make updates. This seems to work against the very essence of what G-Cloud is supposed to represent and enable. If we consider that most of the innovation is being driven by SMEs, by locking down the framework for two years and blocking technological advances the government is effectively working against SME suppliers and ultimately hindering change and progress.
The good news is that the CCS has now subsequently reversed its decision, announcing earlier in March that a new iteration of G-Cloud will be delivered in June. Oliver Dowden, minister for implementation acknowledged that ‘small businesses are the backbone of our economy, so it’s crucial we listen to them when shaping policy’.
Challenges may not change in the near future
So, while public sector suppliers have welcomed the government turnaround, some argue that the high proportion of suppliers still not engaging with the framework suggests a radical overhaul to G-Cloud is required to make it work better for all, and a year’s delay is a price worth paying for getting it right.
There is some merit in this argument, as many suppliers agree that with G-Cloud there’s no visibility of tenders and opportunities – knowing if you’re in the running for an opportunity is a key area for improvement. Another issue already mentioned is the fact that the framework is inflexible when it comes to suppliers needing to adjust pricing, particularly third-party price increases that are out of the control of suppliers.
Leaving the framework ‘as is’ however would also likely have a detrimental effect on new suppliers to the public sector market, to those developing new services and any that need to make pricing changes. Delaying changes by 12 months means the buyer (and, by extension, the tax payer) is being denied innovation and the positive effect of increased competition.
That is why the benefits of moving G-Cloud from iteration 9 to 10 far outweighs the disadvantages of simply extending the current framework. And we’re hopeful that the challenges will be ironed out as iterations progress.