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Public sector IT suppliers want government procurement chiefs to confirm when the 10th version of the G-Cloud procurement framework will go live, as concerns mount that it could be delayed by up to a year.
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Speaking to Computer Weekly, Peter Middleton, chair of the Cloud Industry Forum’s G-Cloud-focused Special Interest Group, said any significant delay in the roll-out of G-Cloud 10 would go against the founding principles of the framework.
“It would be a fundamental betrayal of the whole G-Cloud principles to drive innovation, choice and value and it would be particularly bad for SMEs,” he said.
“It’s a case of do that [delay] at your peril because it would be fundamentally breaking the trust model that underpins G-Cloud in the marketplace.”
The latest version, G-Cloud 9, went live in May 2017, and the supporting documentation for the 12-month framework confirms that the Crown Commercial Service reserves the right to extend it by up to a year if needed.
The CCS confirmed it is exercising this right for the Digital Outcomes and Specialists 2 Framework in October 2017, which means it will now run until January 2019, and suppliers fear a similar fate could befall G-Cloud.
There is an expectation within the G-Cloud supplier community that details of the next framework release should start to circulate about six months after the previous version has gone live, but – at the time of writing – no information on this front has been forthcoming.
“It used to be roughly every six months,” said Middleton. “There would be one framework out the door, and then you were already planning the next one. They have already cut that cycle right down, so it’s already more restrictive than it used to be, like we’re moving back to a more static framework.
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“To kick G-Cloud 10 off in February, you need to be pushing out the announcement before Christmas, because you need to be communicating and fully consulting on any framework agreement changes.
“We are getting dangerously close to a point where if they’re not doing that now, it’s raising suspicions that we might see an announcement [of a delay].”
Computer Weekly contacted CCS for clarification on the release schedule for G-Cloud 10, and was told the organisation has nothing to say on the matter at this time.
When G-Cloud made its debut in March 2012, it was held up as a representative example of how IT procurement across the entire public sector needed to change, by allowing organisations to purchase services from a much wider pool of suppliers, and on a two-year contract basis.
Each iteration of the framework gives existing suppliers the opportunity to update details about the pricing and functionality of their services, and new providers can apply to have their services added to the Digital Marketplace.
Therefore, any extension of the framework or significant delays to its launch could put the brakes on public sector cloud adoption and hinder its wider digital transformation efforts, it is feared.
“To delay [G-Cloud] by 12 months means the buyer/taxpayer is denied innovation and the positive impact of competition,” wrote former EuroCloud secretary general Lindsay Smith in a LinkedIn forum post.
“Tech SMEs are being formed at a record rate and existing suppliers are innovating in real time. It is not in the government’s interest to have two years between frameworks.”