The Government’s G-Cloud has been very publicly slammed by one of its most enthusiastic early supporters, cloud hosting company Memset.
Founder of Memset Kate Craig-Wood has been involved in the G-Cloud since 2009, but she has now added her voice to other criticism of the G-Cloud online services marketplace.
The G-Cloud was launched back in 2012 and it allows public-sector bodies to acquire commodity services online. Its principle intention was to provide an alternative procurement market-place to allow SMEs to compete for government and local authority procurement contracts.
Total spending through the project reached £1.05 billion by the end of February, with 52 percent of sales going to smaller businesses, according to the most recent figures provided by the Government Digital Service (GDS). To date, 77 percent of G-Cloud services have sold to central government organisations, with the remaining 23 percent going to the wider public sector, GDS said.
But Memset says that despite its own “massive investments” including £2 million on a secure data centre, as well as all the compliance and other associated costs, it has seen a “utterly pitiful returns” of just £100,000 a year.
Craig-Wood said that it has not seen any business from G-Cloud since 2013, and she blamed public sector buyers for not changing their procurement attitudes.
“Without wishing to ‘put all the blame’ onto the customer, this is probably the biggest factor in the failure of the G-Cloud dream,” she wrote. “The Digital Marketplace is also broken. Most buyers only go there once they have already worked out what they want to buy and from whom – perhaps in part because it is so hard to actually find what you’re looking for!”
She cited key features of the App Store have been missing since 2010, and said “we have a marketplace where you only get noticed by ‘spamming’ by including the right keywords in your text and getting partners to re-post your services to get multiple listings of the same thing.”
She also accused central government of completely ignoring their own mandates, but admitted that Memset sales approach is also to blame, as the company doesn’t pro-actively sell, but rather “leads conversations.”
“I bear full responsibility for Memset’s government journey to date,” wrote Craig-Wood. “Not only did I have a hand in creating the coolaid but I made us drink it. We passionately believed in the dream of G-Cloud and kept doing so despite the goal posts being repeatedly moved, the marketplace continuing not to function properly and buyers continuing to behave in the same old ways.”
“We’re not turning our back on government. We’ll still be here, helping those enlightened few among the public sector to save money with high-efficiency, high-security Open Standards IaaS/PaaS, but it will be on our terms,” she wrote. “I’m tired of chasing a vision that nobody else seems to be committed to.”
It is fair to say that the G-Cloud has had its detractors in the past. In September 2011 for example the government was forced to reaffirm its commitment to the G-Cloud, despite admitting it was ‘under-used’.
This was after heavy criticism by representatives of the local authority sector at the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) inquiry earlier in 2011. New management was brought in and pledged to make the service more accessible and open as possible.
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