Public sector IT suppliers call on government to extend G-Cloud 5

After the Crown Commercial Service said G-Cloud 5 would not close on 22 May, public sector IT suppliers ask government to extend it even further

Public sector IT suppliers have asked the government to extend G-Cloud 5’s stay of execution, fearing the six-month extension granted earlier this week will prove insufficient.

The Crown Commercial Service confirmed the fifth version of its cloud procurement framework would no longer close on 22 May, as previously planned.

Instead, it will now remain in operation for a further six months, “to ensure continuity of service for customers during the development of G-Cloud 7”, the organisation said.

G-Cloud suppliers warmly welcomed the move. Chris Farthing, director of public sector IT procurement advisory firm Advice Cloud, said it was a smart move, given the general election looming.

“There’s likely to be a hung parliament again this time around, and attempting to run a procurement for G-Cloud 7 during a general election is just not feasible,” Farthing said.

“It’s clearly been planned this way to ensure that, when it comes to issuing the Official Journal of the European Union contract notice for G-Cloud 7,  there will hopefully be a government in place.”

Read more about the G-Cloud programme

Concerns over Digital Services Framework

Given that it typically takes three months from the publication of the contract notice for G-Cloud frameworks to get up and running, Farthing predicted the seventh iteration could be in place by September 2015.

However, concerns have been raised about what this means for the government’s apparent pledge to keep G-Cloud 5 in place while work on the third version of the much-maligned Digital Services Framework (DSF) takes place.

Until DSF 3 is completed, G-Cloud 5 remains the only workable way for the public sector to procure agile development services, said Harry Metcalfe, managing director of public sector-focused web projects delivery firm DXW.

Public sector organisations have the option to use the earlier version of the Digital Services Framework to do this, he explained, but they are not as straightforward to use and miss the point of how providers of these services tend to operate.

“It has a number of problems in the way it’s constructed and really isn’t any good for anything but 'body-shopping',” he said, referring to the process of removing staff from companies on a short-term basis to solve problems with digital projects.

Agile development prompts call for extension

“They are fixing all those problems with Digital Services Framework 3 but, until it comes out, G-Cloud 5 is the only thing we have for anyone who is doing agile development who is not body-shopping.”

Computer Weekly contacted the Cabinet Office for comment on this point, but was directed back to the announcement about G-Cloud 5 being extended for a further six months.

In February 2015, steps were taken to remove agile development services from G-Cloud 5 – but this decision was later reversed in light of complaints about DSF.

“Crown Commercial Service and Government Digital Service have decided not to remove agile development services available under G-Cloud 5 from the Digital Marketplace, while we focus on improving the Digital Services Framework,” the organisation said in a blog post at the time.

But, with no confirmed release date for DS3 in place, Metcalfe said he’d like to see the life of G-Cloud 5 extended even further.

“I don’t think it’s been extended for long enough. And to remove it before we’ve established a realistic alternative is rash,” Metcalfe said.

“I think they should either restore agile development in G-Cloud 7, or G-Cloud 5 should continue until we have a working alternative – which means until DS 3 is brought in or even DS 4.”

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