IT suppliers call on new-look GDS for commitment to G-Cloud's future

In light of Francis Maude's departure from GDS, G-Cloud suppliers want assurances from the government about what's in store for the framework

G-Cloud suppliers are urging the newly elected Conservative government not to make any sweeping changes to the framework, for fear it could put the public sector off procuring services through it.

Having secured an overall majority in the 2015 general election, resulting in the dissolution of its coalition with the Liberal Democrats, suppliers hope the Conservative Party’s victory will mean it is business as usual as far as G-Cloud is concerned.

This is despite the news that Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, the creator of the Government Digital Service, has left his post to become the minister of state for trade and industry.

In his previous role, Maude was responsible for overseeing many of the previous government’s IT efficiency and reform initiatives, and was a staunch champion of G-Cloud and its goal to simplify the way public sector organisations procure IT.   

There have been six iterations of the framework to date, and there is a seventh in the pipeline. At the moment, this is tipped for introduction in the early autumn of 2015.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Kate Craig-Wood, managing director of public sector-focused infrastructure-as-a-service provider Memset, said the election’s outcome was a “big relief” for all those heavily invested in the G-Cloud framework.

“It’s disappointing to see Francis Maude go, as he’s been a big driver of the transformation agenda in the Cabinet Office and our real hope is this mantle will be carried on by his successors," she said.

As reported by Computer Weekly, former minister of state for enterprise and skills Matt Hancock has been ushered in to replace Maude, along with Oliver Letwin.

Business as usual

In the wake of the reshuffle, IT suppliers are seeking assurances that G-Cloud won’t be sidelined by the new government, so that its successes can be built upon.

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As an example, Nicky Stewart, commercial director at G-Cloud supplier Skyscape Cloud Services, cited the way the framework has paved the way for more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to secure business with public sector organisations.

“When the coalition government was formed in 2010, it was unthinkable that one framework agreement could accommodate nearly 2,000 suppliers, 87% of who are SMEs,” she said.

“It would also have been unthinkable that 49% of sales by value and 58% by volume could be with SMEs – well in excess of the government’s target of 25%.

“We hope this growth continues with the new government,” she added.

Not-for-profit, public sector-focused IT provider Eduserv is an example of a smaller organisation that has done well out of G-Cloud, with the firm's head of product marketing, Andy Powell, describing it as an important route to market for his organisation.

“We’ve seen an incredibly positive impact on our business since the introduction of G-Cloud,” he told Computer Weekly.

“It has gone some way to creating a transparent market for cloud-related services and it has provided an important route to market for smaller organisations like ours which have a great deal to offer public sector buyers.”

Memset is another example of an SME G-Cloud supplier, but Craig-Wood admits it’s taken a while for her firm to reap the full benefits of being included in the framework.

We’ve seen an incredibly positive impact on our business since the introduction of G-Cloud

Andy Powell, Eduserv

“G-Cloud is a success, but it has taken a long time,” she said. “But I think that’s more a sign of government departments being slow to adapt and we’ve certainly felt that, in that it’s taken bloody ages to get any traction with it.”

This is a view shared by Powell, who said he’d like to see the new government do more to address this issue.

“If there is one area of focus we’d like to see going forward to G-Cloud, it would be building knowledge and awareness among procurement departments, IT teams and other stakeholders in the public sector,” he said.

“Our research into cloud adoption has found this is the biggest challenge in widening procurement opportunities through G-Cloud."

That being said, the deals are starting to come through, said Craig-Wood, but she hopes the framework’s slow-burn success won’t count against it in the corridors of power.

“It hasn’t transformed the government IT landscape overnight, but I think it can and I really hope the baby doesn’t get thrown out with the bath water on this occasion,” she added.

More of the same

Despite the framework’s faults, Craig-Wood said she’d like to see the framework given more time to bed in under the new government’s control, and hopes they’ll hold off on introducing any sweeping changes to the way its run for now.

We’d like there to be a period of stability now, where they let G-Cloud bed in a bit and expand on what they’ve got, rather than make more sweeping changes before everyone can catch their breath again

Kate Craig-Wood, Memset

“One of the most damaging things to all SMEs, and one that has hurt us personally, is the amount of change in G-Cloud over the years. More change at this time would be a bad thing,” she said.

Since the framework’s introduction in February 2012, suppliers have had to deal with numerous changes, including a government-wide alteration to the way public sector data is classified in April 2014.

Under the new system, public sector information is labelled Official, Secret and Top Secret, based on how sensitive it is, while the previous system was based on a sliding scale of impact levels.

This used a scorecard system of zero to six to demonstrate the risk posed to the public sector should data fall into the wrong hands and was used by G-Cloud buyers to ascertain if the services being offered through the framework were equipped to cope with the levels of security they required.

There have also been several attempts to shake-out suppliers who may have snuck onto the framework, despite touting offerings that don’t adhere to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s definition of what constitutes a cloud service.

“The end result is we’ve ended up chasing moving goalposts while trying to become one of the SMEs the government is so keen to deal with,” Craig-Wood continued.

“We’d like there to be a period of stability now, where they let G-Cloud bed in a bit and expand on what they’ve got, rather than make more sweeping changes before everyone can catch their breath again.”

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