G-Cloud's growing pains

Written by Bhuwan Kaushik on 29 April 2016 in Opinion
Opinion

G-Cloud needs to evolve with the market to arrest a recent slump in sales through the framework, says Bhuwan Kaushik.

Four years after the Government’s G-Cloud framework was launched and it has facilitated a number of transformations within public sector IT systems.

Largely giving departments and organisations greater agility and flexibility in the services they use and projects they’re running.

What’s more, compared to relying on legacy equipment and systems, the move to the cloud has also saved considerable amounts of taxpayer money.

In terms of numbers, there have been deals worth more than £1 million, thousands worth more than £100,000, and tens of thousands of individual transactions – demonstrating the sheer scale of demand that needs to be met in public sector IT.

Growing pains

The IT world is changing, however, the number of cloud services available has sky rocketed and G-Cloud is only set to grow.

In fact, it’s becoming one of the most competitive marketplaces in any industry and, given the compliance and regulatory issues surrounding the public sector, its success will likely to dictate the vendors selected in other highly regulated industries such as finance.  

Having access to in excess of 22,000 services and 2,300 suppliers though, comes with its own problems; the G-Cloud machine is facing growing pains. 

Most recently of which is a sales plateau.  In February 2016 sales figures were at £40m, compared to £42m the same month the previous year; a five percent drop.

With G-Cloud 8 open for applications next month and G-Cloud 9 in its discovery phase, the time is right for a frank discussion on how G-Cloud is evolving. 

The discovery phase of G-Cloud 9, where comments are invited on potential improvements, will be the IT industry’s chance to shape G-Cloud for the better and for the future market that’s on the horizon.

Steps to evolution

In May 2013 the Cabinet Office issued a ‘cloud-first’ mandate, to encourage public sector departments to take the plunge with cloud.

With clear support for the agility and flexibility gains of the cloud, it’s a problem that this mandate is being ignored by so many departments.

While for some departments there may be perfectly viable reasons to not use the G-Cloud, there are many others that are blindly sticking to old habits – and this should be challenged.

Largely, the problem is likely to be human nature’s aversion to change.  While the public sector is right to be cautious and consider its procurement decisions carefully, purchasing cloud services through G-Cloud shouldn’t be seen as the risky option, simply because it’s newer. 

To get more out of G-Cloud, there needs to be more rigorous enforcement of it as a procurement tool within the public sector. 

The G-Cloud system should be looked at with an open mind, similar projects in other Government departments should be analysed to inform decisions, and it’s also worth looking to the private sector to identify the potential advantages of cloud. 

Failing to do this, could see Government departments turn their back on significant efficiencies and potential tax payer savings.

Arguably, the fall in the rate of sales on the G-Cloud framework is because smaller ‘quick-win’ projects have been achieved, but this leaves the more complex, potentially much more important projects, still needing to be addressed. 

With more complicated elements there may also be a need for industry-specific expertise and perhaps even a call for subject matter experts to take a view.

It is important that all these elements are considered at the initial stages of a project, to ensure its smooth running, rather than retrospectively trying to ‘fix’ a project that has been rushed into and consequently gone wrong. 

A further criticism of the current G-Cloud system is that the current inefficiencies mean that IT departments are using the service to select the same supplier they would have chosen without the service – negating any benefit of having the G-Cloud framework. 

This is supported by CRN statistical analysis that finds the total sales figure – now in excess of £1 billion – was achieved through sales with only 653 suppliers. 

The majority of sales value (50.4 percent) was shared out by 30 suppliers, and 17 of these were large firms.  Even more worrying is that only 653 suppliers – 25 percent of those on the G-Cloud framework – had made a sale at all. 

One way to rectify this is to allow vendors to collaborate with IT departments and talk about requirements of a project and how they can be met.  If those within the public sector published what they needed, for example, a fairer competition would ensue in terms of selecting a supplier.

The cloud has transformed IT departments across the UK – and indeed the world – both in the private and public sphere.

It has huge potential in terms of what it can offer both SMEs and those IT departments selecting suppliers and services.  Like anything, however, it needs to evolve with the market and continue to reinvent itself to meet demand. 

In my opinion, the Government needs to convince more people to use it, make it more collaborative and ensure there is an efficient communication process to meet the demands of the future.

Bhuwan Kaushik is chief executive of IT and digital services provider Spectromax

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