Using multiple frameworks to procure IT systems

The preferred approach for many IT procurements now is to procure from Crown Commercial Services (CCS) Frameworks. But there are a number of different ones, so which should you use? In some cases, the answer is to follow a disaggregated approach, breaking the system down into different parts, and procuring each off the appropriate framework.

For hosting, you could buy an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) from the G-Cloud Framework. By using the Cloud and existing access devices, you might not have to buy any further hardware at all. But if you did need PCs or data capture devices, for example, you could buy these off Technology Products Framework 2. For the application software, there may be Commercial Off the Shelf Software (COTS) which meets most of your requirements, or it may be necessary to develop a lot of bespoke code. Typically there is a mixture of the two, although the split varies. There may also be Open Source software that can be used, and this is the preferred choice if there is a suitable product available. The COTS can also be procured from Technology Products Framework 2. A supplier can be selected to develop the bespoke application code from the Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS 2) framework. That supplier could also be responsible for configuring the COTS packages and setting up the virtual environments on the Cloud system. Those types of activities are sometimes referred to as platform management. But they require a rather different skill set to application development. So instead, they could be procured as support services from the Cloud hosting supplier or it may be preferable to select a different supplier for them off G-Cloud.

Once the system is developed, each part of the system needs its own support and there are normally different levels, with level 1 being the help desk that a user contacts if there is a problem, going down through levels 2, 3 and 4, with the lowest levels being the standard support offered by product vendors. Some support can be procured from the suppliers who provide each part and bought off the same frameworks. But there is also a need for end to end support, usually at level 1 or 2. In the past this could be procured off Technology Services Framework (RM 1058). The replacement for RM 1058, Technology Services 2 (RM 3804), is about to go live, and this is expected to an appropriate framework to use. This may also provide an alternative framework for the platform management services. Another option for both platform management services and support would be to use G-Cloud.

This type of approach sounds like a lot of complexity, with the customer having to deal with six or more suppliers and that is a concern for some buyers. But the complexity can be reduced by combining application development, platform management and support services within one supplier contract. Buying the different hardware and software products from a number of suppliers can be mitigated by the application development or platform management supplier managing that complexity on behalf of the customer. You could also aggregate the procurement of services like hosting, platform development or application development across a number of different systems. This could reduce the total number of IT suppliers used by an organisation compared to having a different supplier for each system.

Another approach is to buy a Software as a Service (SaaS) from G-Cloud, with a single supplier providing the overall solution. Whether this is feasible depends on whether a suitable SaaS is available that meets your requirement with little bespoke development. There is also a risk of being locked into one supplier. But where there are multiple suppliers with G-Cloud SaaS offerings that are a close fit to your requirements and it is feasible to migrate between them, then this may be the best option.

Whatever approach you choose, you need to manage the procurement, the development project, the contracts and the suppliers. Getting experienced, impartial expert help with that can be critical to its success. But making sure your internal staff are prepared is important too. That is why as well as providing support at every level from providing advice to running the procurement and managing contracts, we also run training courses on topics such as “Understanding How IT Suppliers think”, “Understanding IT Contracts” and “Commercial Awareness for Project Managers”. Procuring IT systems is never going to be easy, but with the right advice, help and training, it can successful.

For more information, contact us.

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