The challenges of trying to win business through G-Cloud

In this guest post, Ross McCaw, CEO and founder of internal communications-enabling platform OurPeople airs his personal take on the challenges his firm has experienced when trying to lockdown deals through G-Cloud with local authorities.

The UK is on a mission to be the leader in innovation and home to the very best talent. One way we can collectively put our best foot forward is by supporting our tech innovators to get their products and services on the radar of potential customers.

The UK government initially set out to do this in 2012 through the launch of its SME-friendly G-Cloud procurement framework, which was designed to make it easier for SME IT providers to compete against the tech giants when it came to securing public sector cloud deals.

The framework is pitched as a “quick and easy route to market” for public sector departments to find and buy cloud computing services. It allows suppliers of cloud-based solutions to list their wares on a front-end catalogue called the Digital Marketplace.

While on the face of it this seems like a great initiative to encourage and enable mass innovation – it is actually doing the complete opposite.

I founded OurPeople, a team communication and engagement platform aimed at helping deskless teams navigate their internal communications, in 2016. Since its inception, we have raised $3.75m and have worked with a number of high-profile clients including West Ham United Foundation, Virgin Active UK, Paulton’s Park and Serco Leisure.

There are 2.7 billion deskless workers worldwide, which equates to 80% of our global workforce. This has become even more fragmented as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Internal comms need to be streamlined and easily accessible to all employees whenever, wherever – or teams will crumble. That’s why we joined G-Cloud to put our technology into the hands of public sector organisations who are struggling to share their most important information in an efficient and targeted way.

What we didn’t expect to come up against is a bureaucratic system with red tape on every door. Despite the core principles of G-Cloud being ease, speed, efficiency and putting these tools into the hands of those who need them most – the platform is stifling innovation. The marketplace is supposed to act as a bridge between cloud-based solution providers, government and local councils, but what we find is that bridge being blocked by differing internal processes that make it impossible to streamline the experience.

In one case, we bid for a piece of work from a county council, only for it to stall in the bureaucracy of the system – wasting over three years on a decision, as well as thousands of pounds in time and investment.

If the government is looking to attract businesses like ours, they are being completely undermined by decision-makers further down the chain.

Since joining G-Cloud we have dealt with seven local authorities where it has taken over a year from initial contact to gather some feedback – and all have stalled or reneged on a contract due to non-completion from IT departments or because they simply did not engage with the department purchaser. On average, it has taken three months for private-sector deals to be complete from introduction to contract signature sign, but for local authorities, this has taken considerably longer – over a year in some cases and this is not sustainable for any small, growing business.

To make the system work, local councils need to be given less authority and autonomy over the process. But to achieve this, the process of getting suppliers into the database needs to be better understood by those at a local level – and the government has a responsibility to educate them on this.

Moving forward, those further down the line need to be assured that the initial security process is robust enough without the need for further audits. At the moment, the two levels are not communicating with one another nor showing they trust the process. As a result, businesses like us are becoming frustrated by the process, leading to a mass exodus and a lack of opportunity for those that need our solutions.

There is real potential for the Digital Marketplace to have a profound impact, but now it is at an inflection point where a complete overhaul of the system is critical for its future success.

G-Cloud is damaging the UK’s reputation as the leader in innovation. In order to connect the UK’s greatest developments with councils to do their best work, local government and councils must communicate or this will fail miserably.

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