Don’t lose sight of ‘cloud first’ commitment, Cabinet Office warned

Cloud Industry Forum warns that ‘momentum and progress on the Government Transformation Strategy could stall’ as it flags lack of G-Cloud sales updates and ‘poorly articulated needs’

Ministers have been urged not to let the government’s much-vaunted “cloud first” commitment fall by the wayside as they grapple with the challenges of leaving the European Union and making fresh spending cuts.

Under plans first set out by the coalition government in 2013, public sector organisations procuring new or existing services are expected to “consider and fully evaluate potential cloud solutions first before considering any other option”. 

In central government the so-called “cloud first” policy is mandatory, while in the wider public sector it is described as “strongly recommended”.

The requirement followed the 2012 launch of the G-Cloud initiative, a series of framework agreements with suppliers supported by the Digital Marketplace online store, which aims to make it easier for public sector organisations to buy cloud services without going through a full procurement process.

But the Cloud Industry Forum – a body representing cloud suppliers – has expressed concern that the government’s commitment to cloud services could be on the wane.

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The CIF has this week launched what it is calling a new “Special Interest Group” to try and forge “a renewed partnership between cloud service providers (CSPs) and the Cabinet Office”.

The group – which will be chaired by Peter Middleton, director of supplier Cloudline – is calling on the government to make clear that it remains committed to public sector adoption of the cloud, and wants the Cabinet Office to appoint a dedicated representative who will ensure cloud remains a priority.

“With the challenges of Brexit, ongoing austerity, and a new government, industry believes there is a risk that momentum and progress on the Government Transformation Strategy could stall,” the organisation said.

“CIF sees it as essential to work in partnership with government to identify and remove barriers and blockers that might prevent delivery of the digital and cloud-based solutions that are enabling much of that transformative change to happen. This requires joined-up thinking from the centre, and a demonstrable commitment to reach out to industry.”

The new group has already laid out a series of demands, including a restatement of the commitment to cloud first and the publication of “detailed cloud transition and IT sourcing plans for each department”, which it argued will help industry better meet the needs of government.

CIF’s new group also wants to see “a comprehensive stakeholder engagement and communications programme” from the government, arguing that such a strategy is needed to educate departments about the cloud and “reduce unnecessary waste caused by poorly articulated needs, unclear vendor services, a lack of digital skills, and bad buying behaviour”.

The group is also calling on the Cabinet Office to commit to maintaining and publish up-to-date G-Cloud sales figures “on a monthly basis”. At the time of writing, the government has not published a fresh batch of G-Cloud sales data since January, while the G-Cloud dashboard, which tracks sales over time, has not been updated since October of last year.

According to those figures – the most recent available – public sector organisations have spent more than £1.5bn through G-Cloud since May 2012, with £1.2bn of that coming from central government alone. Local government accounts for £84.9m of total G-Cloud spend.

Launching the new special interest group, Middleton said he remained “convinced that G-Cloud and other procurement frameworks available through the Digital Marketplace are critical enablers for successful delivery of the government’s ambitious transformation goals for 2020 and beyond.”

He added: “Without access to a vibrant, competitive and responsive marketplace of innovative products, services, and people with the right specialist digital skills, the public sector cannot hope to deliver this scale of transformation at the pace of change required.“That is why I believe the ongoing success of the Digital Marketplace and GDS is fundamental, and why the Cabinet Office must work closely with industry to reinvigorate the vision and mission, and continue to be the game-changing force for positive and rapid change that they have so far proved to be.”

Sam Trendall

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