A year to change 
the face of public 
sector IT procurement

The G-Cloud programme, which celebrated its first anniversary in February this year, was formed to deliver on the government’s commitment to reducing its ICT costs, introducing competition, innovation and opportunity into the relatively static ICT market, reducing procurement and deployment timelines through the introduction of agile, low-cost and environmentally sustainable services.
G-Cloud services are available to over 29,000 public sector organisations and the Framework is already delivering tangible benefits.

The government’s ambition to improve the process by which ICT services are selected and sourced is being enabled through the G-Cloud programme, which is creating a market populated by a wide variety of suppliers and services, 70 per cent of which are SMEs.
Successfully interact
G-Cloud therefore presents a significant opportunity for new suppliers to successfully interact with the public sector, a market that was traditionally considered very difficult to engage with. This demonstrates the government’s commitment to improving procurement and disrupting the status quo, as it has historically favoured a supply oligopoly with the majority of the government’s substantial ICT spend vested with a limited number of large companies.
The programme represents a great cultural leap for the government. This shift has been catalysed by a challenging economic outlook and in response to a need to support overstretched public sector organisations by addressing operational efficiency, whilst enabling cost savings, greater energy efficiency and better business outcomes without compromising security.
How has public sector IT procurement changed?
The Framework was initially met with some scepticism, however its success has proven how transformational the new model can be, not just in terms of cost savings, but also with regards to the speed of procurement and enhanced operational efficiency.

In the year that it has been up and running, it has tackled the problems associated with the old methods of procurement and has sought to improve security, increase financial and energy efficiency and create a more transparent pricing model, while opening up the market to SMEs who would have found it difficult to market their services to the public sector.

The programme enjoyed its most successful month to date in March, passing the £18m mark in terms of sales procured through the framework. This total is largely based on  cloud services consumed to date, with the exception of Lot 4 services, as public sector organisations are now able to pay only for what they use. As a result, the cost of similar services would have been far greater using 
the legacy procurement model.

A key attribute of G-Cloud is the unprecedented transparency it delivers in terms of price, helping to drive competition and innovation. The Framework has also opened the market to a whole community of suppliers who would previously have found it challenging, if not impossible, to offer their services to the UK public sector.

The success of G-Cloud is also supporting plans by the Cabinet Office to move to a “public cloud first” policy, which is expected 
to mandate central government departments into considering public cloud services as the main channel of their IT spending, a policy which is currently in progress.
Security in the cloud
Understandably, security is a top priority for organisations across the board, and the G-Cloud Framework enables the UK public sector to access and select from a wide range of assured services. This allows organisations to reap the benefits from lower costs, reduced procurement times and a simplified tendering process, without the need for compromising on security or performance.
In response to the concerns of organisations and the evolving set of regulatory demands facing the public and private sectors, the G-Cloud programme has worked with CESG (The National Technical Authority for Information Assurance) to adopt a rigorous Pan Government Accreditation process. This will provide the UK public sector (as well as their end users, who are in many cases the general public) with the appropriate levels of assurance about the security of their data.

Accreditation is a crucial consideration for public sector buyers looking to procure assured cloud services through G-Cloud. Vendors should endeavour to understand and meet with the government assurance standards, certifications and accreditations regarding quality, information security, IT service management and the environment in which data is hosted.

By securing Pan-Government Accreditation, vendors can offer reassurance to customers. This will help remove compliance headaches as these standards are already demonstrably being met by IT providers, and the confidence for buyers to not have to repeat expensive accreditation processes locally.

The Framework provides an OJEU-compliant route to market for the public sector. Thanks to CESG accreditation of services via the G-Cloud, confidence in the cloud is growing and often using an accredited and assured cloud services provider is more secure than the existing storage of data that organisations were using.
Looking ahead
The G-Cloud programme has come a long way since it was launched, but there is still much more to do to deliver the levels of change that the government is aiming for in its commitment to invest in technology as a way to facilitate positive changes for the over-stretched public sector.
Our government is committed to ensuring the programme continually evolves to meet with the changing end-user needs. The third round of the procurement, Gii, has recently been completed and will introduce further new services and suppliers into the market.

Giii will look to further transform the face of IT procurement within the public sector, simplifying the tendering process, creating greater transparency of pricing and enabling organisations to be better placed to reach informed decisions due to the ability to 
make vendor-on-vendor comparisons.
Behavioural change
To date, the programme has delivered a number of benefits to public sector organisations and has tackled the numerous problems associated with traditional methods of procurement – delivering more efficient, cost-effective, scalable and secure services and a greater and better informed choice. The programme has also succeeded in facilitating a behavioural change, by allowing organisations to turn servers off during evenings and weekends, resulting in significant energy and cost savings as a direct result.

G-Cloud has attracted much attention in the year since its launch back in February 2012, and with more and more pre-approved vendors opting in to this evolving framework, momentum is continuing to build. The project has forced the re-appraisal of the UK public sector ICT market and is continuing to evolve.

G-Cloud has proven its worth by delivering significant benefits to the public sector. The  far-sighted approach that the government has taken to improving public sector IT deployment is also leading the way in Europe. The initiative additionally supports the government’s target to transact 25 per cent of its business with SMEs, by giving them a low-barrier route into the ICT market.
Increased competition
The only ones for whom the Framework hasn’t been good news is the incumbents, who have for too long remained complacent, inflexible and expensive. Instead of offering easy-to-adopt, easy-to-use and easy-to-leave services, many incumbents have for far too long been delivering services that not only lock-in customers but fails to deliver, either in terms of performance or cost.

In a bid to create a superior end-user experience, which directly impacts the general public, the G-Cloud initiative has driven competition among vendors to deliver the best cloud services at the most competitive prices.

Even the best suppliers will have to continually evaluate their offerings and ensure that they are delivering the best service possible in order to stay ahead of the game.

The Framework has delivered exactly the change that was needed in the public sector, and with the fourth instalment of the programme due to go live by the end of the year (with the fifth swiftly following in 2014), the initiative is set to continue delivering positive change to the UK public sector.

In the year ahead, we can expect sales of cloud services to steadily increase and, with more suppliers and services being added to the G-Cloud Framework, we will see increased competition further driving efficiency in the public sector.

As a result of the success of the G-Cloud project, we anticipate the evolving SME ecosystem to gain momentum and become an increasingly powerful voice in the public sector market. This diversification of IT providers will help organisations to move away from incumbent IT providers, in order for them to seek out vendors who can be more flexible, agile and cost‑effective to meet the individual needs of public sector organisations.
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