G-Cloud Celebrates Birthday But ‘Needs Government To Change Its Ways’

The G-Cloud is celebrating its first official birthday today, but the programme director and one prominent supplier believe the government needs to change for the project to be truly successful.

The procurement framework, which opened up pay-as-you-go purchasing of IT services, was launched in February last year and has seen two different frameworks go live, whilst the third is due to arrive soon.

Candles out for G-Cloud

Only £6 million worth of deals have been signed off over the G-Cloud, leading some to wonder whether the government has really embraced this new model, however. The fear is that the traditional suppliers are continuing to get most IT contracts across Whitehall and the various government departments, even though the G-Cloud was supposed to bring small to medium-sized vendors into the fold.

Three-quarters of suppliers are SMBs, according to the G-Cloud chiefs in the Cabinet Office. They said today that  £4.6 million has been with SMBs.

G-Cloud programme director Denise McDonagh  admitted a shift in mind-set was needed for the project to be truly successful. “The move to purchasing IT services as a commodity requires a culture shift for the public sector that won’t happen overnight,” McDonagh said, in a statement.

“After only a year, though, most big government departments have bought services from the Cloud, and there is significant buy-in from local government.”

Alastair Mitchell, CEO and co-founder of Huddle, which has won more contracts than any other supplier over the framework, said “we need to get the public sector to purchase through the CloudStore”.

“It’s essential we adopt a Cloud First policy, pushing cloud from the top down. Old habits die hard but we need a shift in the approach to buying IT services, led by the Government Procurement Service,” he said, in comments sent to UK media.

“Finally, it’s vital that the government doesn’t lose sight of its original goals and stays focused on highly specialised services. We don’t want to see the framework overrun with big tech vendors that undermine the G-Cloud values because they don’t offer the same value for money or innovation.”

TechWeekEurope recently found Amazon and Google were struggling to get on the G-Cloud framework, even though they had expressed their interest.

The third iteration of the G-Cloud’s front-facing procurement platform, CloudStore 3, is expected to go live in the spring.

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Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

View Comments

  • The problem is a good businesses would use Cloud (or G-Cloud) in order to decrease costs and increase profit.

    Civil Servants are spending The Public Purse and have no check on their appalling behaviour, sometimes buying technologies that are out-of-date at £100m price tags.

    Their view is "let them eat cake".

    Annoyingly they are in plush jobs and even get payoffs when found out and ejected from office i.e "retired early" in some cases, promoted to distant posts in others.

    Govt cuts should start with Civil Servants in I.T. as they are beyond the pale.

  • The government’s statement that, after its first year of operation, G-Cloud has proved itself to be “a model for efficient public sector IT procurement” needs to be greeted with a healthy dose of scepticism. Purchases from the G-Cloud Cloudstore number only 200 and total just £6 million – a tiny proportion of overall UK government IT spending, estimated at around £16 billion per year.

    There are many challenges still to be overcome before the G-Cloud can be considered a success. One key problem is how can change be managed effectively. How can government, and the wider public sector, whose procurement process often ends up stalled by bureaucracy and red tape, add, amend or retire services from the catalogue quickly and efficiently? In other words, how can ‘flexibility for change’ be maintained?

    Ongoing public sector pay restraints are making this elusive flexibility even harder to achieve. After all, this is a significant programme of change that requires strong organisational management skills to ensure benefits, primarily cost and flexibility, are realised.

    There are also problems around cultural readiness. Government may have created a catalogue in the shape of CloudStore that public sector businesses can buy from, but are government agencies prepared for this? The limited spending so far suggests they are not. Most of these agencies are less culturally advanced than businesses in the private sector – and many government users are not ready for the kind of transformation that moving to the cloud may bring to interaction with IT systems and services.

    Again, it is clear that the way G-Cloud is currently configured, it is a project that is more likely to lead to escalating cost rather than successfully driving efficiencies and financial savings.

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