A history of public sector procurement: recalling the cloud

For use by the UK public sector to buy cloud computing services covering hosting, software and cloud support on a commodity based, pay-as-you go service, the G-Cloud frameworks have been helping public procurement since 2012. Here, we recall the steps that have been taken

In August, the Crown Commercial Service announced that the commercial G-Cloud 10 agreement had gone live, albeit a few months later the. Originally planned, meaning that public sector bodies could choose and purchase cloud computing services covering infrastructure, platform, software and specialist cloud services.

The commodity-based, pay-as-you go agreement runs for 12 months. However, as with previous iterations, the duration may be extended for any period up to a maximum of 12 months from expiry of the initial term, which is set for 1 August 2019. As detailed in our last issue of Government Business at the end of August, benefits of the agreement include access to nearly 25,000 services and 3,500 suppliers, as well as scalable services which can be expanded or shrunk as demand requires.

G-Cloud 10 comprises 3 lots. Lot 1 is for cloud hosting, with both infrastructure and platform as a service (IaaS and PaaS) services that can help you do at least one of: deploy, manage and run software; and provision and use processing, storage or network resources. Lot 2 covers cloud software (software as a service - SaaS) applications, typically accessed over the internet or private network and hosted in the cloud. Lastly, in Lot 3, covering cloud support to help you set up and maintain your cloud software or hosting services.

Cloud First policy
Through the introduction of the Cloud First policy, the government confirmed in 2013 that purchases through the cloud should be the first option considered by public sector buyers of IT products and services. In a bid to drive wider adoption of cloud computing in the public sector, Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said that public sector organisations should consider and fully evaluate potential cloud solutions first when procuring new or existing services. This approach is mandated to central government and strongly recommended to the wider public sector. Departments remained free to choose an alternative to the cloud if they could demonstrate that it offers better value for money.

Maude said: “G-Cloud brings a step change in the way government buys IT. It’s quicker, cheaper and more competitive, open to a wider range of companies, including a majority of SMEs, and offers more choice and innovation. Many government departments already use G Cloud, but IT costs are still too high. One way we can reduce them is to accelerate the adoption of cloud across the public sector to maximise its benefits. The Cloud First policy will embed the skills a modern civil service needs to meet the demands of 21st-century digital government and help us get ahead in the global race.”

The start of the cloud
In February 2012 the CloudStore was launched, marking a big step change in the way that suppliers and buyers do business on ICT services in the public sector. Operating like an App Store, it meant that a full selection of over 1,700 services, from some 257 suppliers, became available for everyone to see in a user friendly and easily searchable catalogue. In his blog post detailing the launch, Chris Chant, programme director for the programme, who then retired that following April, said that CloudStore was very much just the first version of the organisation’s plans for cloud procurement, suggesting that it would possibly be seen in the future as the ‘Alpha release’. Even whilst celebrating its launch, Chant and his team were already looking ahead to the next version of the G-Cloud framework, writing that he was aiming to make developments that were ‘more dynamic, allowing monthly refreshes to bring onboard new services or new suppliers’, and make high speed change possible.

Just before announcing his retirement, Chant wrote in a blog on the government's G-Cloud website that chief information officers (CIOs) and fellow civil servants were ‘hiding behind the comfort blanket’ and had to change how they buy IT. Citing himself as an example, Chant said IT leaders had been taking the ‘easy path’ for years, by agreeing expensive contracts with big IT suppliers, therefore ‘failing to innovate and thereby causing end users to suffer’.

Chant was not only the only one criticising methods. Despite the G-Cloud plan calling for 50 per cent of new government IT spending to move to cloud computing services by 2015, and aiming to reduce government IT costs by £200 million per year, a report released in May 2012 claimed that the government may miss its cloud computing targets because of a lack of enthusiasm from public sector IT staff. CloudStore prided itself in its infancy on making it cheaper and easier for public sector organisations to choose and buy ‘off the shelf’ IT services, such as email, word processing, enterprise resource planning and electronic records management, but Smart Savings 3, G-Cloud Progress, commissioned by VMware, showcased how 59 per cent of the IT staff surveyed for the report said they were undecided on whether to use CloudStore to buy cloud services. The main reasons were fears for being tied in to existing contracts, concerns about security and a lack of understanding about cloud technologies.

Improvements and further innovation
The Home Office’s Denise McDonagh took over from Chant at the start of May 2012, with G Cloud team planning to launch the second version of the cloud within that time frame (Gii). The change would incorporate a new approach where the department would be able to add new suppliers and services on a quarterly basis at a minimum. Built as part of the Government E-Marketplace and using an existing government platform, the catalogue was still made up of the services from the first iteration and included the services from the first round of the G Cloud OJEU.

In mid-May, the benefits for buyers were outlined as improved search engine capabilities that allowed for free form search alongside the ability to filter on G Cloud attributes, plus the ability to view supplier service definitions, terms and conditions, rate cards and other useful documents, compare services and standard configuration prices side by side, and purchase through the store (if you’re registered to use the eMarketplace). For suppliers, it meant the ability to make changes to CloudStore entry directly, a more open and fairer marketplace through side by side service comparisons, and quicker and easier payments.

Furthermore, the value of the total procurement possible through Gii was increased from £60 million to £100 million and would run for 12 months not six. Although the limit of the contracts remained 12 months, contracts could run up to 24 months in exceptional circumstances. Once it opened for business, Gii had over 3,000 services available from 458 suppliers, double that of the first version. Of the 458 suppliers, 75 per cent were SMEs, a key part of making supplying to government simpler and opening up a more competitive marketplace. The first agreement, Gi, closed on 13 November 2012.

A history of public sector procurement: recalling the cloud

Covering buyer needs
The government announced that it would be carrying out a review of the effectiveness of government ICT framework agreements in October 2012, meaning that all new planned frameworks, including proposals for Giii, were paused. At the start of 2013, the green light was given to G Cloud. Both the G-Cloud framework and the CloudStore celebrated their first birthday in February 2013, although plans to produce Giii by April are already looking unlikely to be met. McDonagh again reiterated that G Cloud was ‘a game changer for the way government buys, manages, delivers and operates IT’.

Discussing 12 months of operations, Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “In just 12 months, G-Cloud has shown itself to be a model for efficient public sector IT procurement, establishing a dynamic marketplace for cloud-based IT services. We have simplified the procurement process through G-Cloud to make it more accessible to a wider range of companies, leading to more choice, better value for the taxpayer and growth for the economy. Suppliers are asked what they can offer government, rather than being issued with complicated specifications that stifle innovation. This is the way we want government IT to be – simpler, quicker, cheaper and focused on matching solutions to business requirements, reducing waste and cutting costs.”

Having survived its first year, sales then appeared to increase with nearly 1,000 invoiced purchases, sales of over £18.2 million to the end of March 2013 and McDonagh writing in May that the Home Office alone was putting through more than £6 million of orders due to the success of the CloudStore. With the Public Expenditure Cabinet Committee having agreed to put in place a Public Cloud First mandate for central government, whereby departments had a target to achieve 50 per cent of new IT spend on cloud and 25 per cent use of SMEs by value by 2015, G Cloud iii went live on 4 May alongside the launch of a new CloudStore. With the commencement of the third procurement iteration, the CloudStore now offered more than 800 suppliers and more than 7,000 services across all types of cloud service models, including public, private and hybrid.

No longer stand alone
Now that Giii was live, Denise McDonagh, the government’s G Cloud director, signalled that it was right for G-Cloud to continue moving to ‘business as usual', especially now that there had been three procurement frameworks successfully launched, as well as the CloudStore improvements, acceptance of the Public Cloud First mandate across central government and sales rising close to £22 million to the end of April 2013.

Therefore, responsibility and instruction for G Cloud moved across to the Government Digital Service (GDS) at the beginning of June 2013. The previous month had seen the publication of the Major Projects Authority’s (MPA) annual report, revealing the performance of the government’s most expensive and important projects for the first time. Amongst other things, the report highlighted some concerns about how the G Cloud programme was resourced, leading to GDS to increase the budget for the programme and to nearly double the size of the team working on the next iteration of the service - G Cloud 4.

At the start of August 2013, the Cabinet Office and GDS announced that G Cloud 4 had been launched and welcomed the next procurement round for applications to join G-Cloud. In a blog post to mark the launch, the Digital Marketplace team said that improvements in the new agreement included clearer instructions on how to apply for suppliers new to G-Cloud, as well as clearer instructions on how to carry forward services for suppliers already on Gii or Giii. The department also highlighted the benefits of the Government Procurement Service (GPS) eSourcing suite for responses to mandatory questions to meet procurement regulations and the GDS Service Submission Portal to make it easier for suppliers by ensuring documentation is a mandatory upload so there is no possibility of suppliers failing compliance for non-submission of documents. This made the process of uploading documents to the CloudStore simple.

The opening of G Cloud 4 also marked a further increase in sales. By the end of October 2013, there were 1,183 suppliers, 83 per cent of this being SMEs, as well as more than 13,000 services, and an impressive £44.7 million in sales up to September the same year. Approximately 63 per cent of these contracts were agreed with SMEs.

More milestones paving the way for 5
October 2013 also saw the CloudStore reach another milestone, with sales figures having exceeded the £50 million mark, reaching £53.5 million by the end of the month. The percentage of spend on SMEs rose again, up from a reported 55 per cent to 58 per cent in the space of six weeks. A further rise of £10 million was recorded in November, with just shy of £63.5 million held in sales. In total, 70 per cent of the number of sales were through central government; with 30 per cent through the rest of the public sector. Total sales recorded towards the end of December 2013 reached £78 million.

The end of 2013 also revealed the share of public sector IT business SME suppliers win, with 56 per cent of total public sector spend by value through the G-Cloud framework going to SME suppliers. The SME percentage share of central government IT spend including through G-Cloud was even higher at 68 per cent. This is in stark contrast to the 10.5 per cent of central government spend in 2012/2013. As well as sales, a Digital marketplace blog of the same time predicted that savings of between 25 per cent and 75 per cent are not uncommon when using SMEs.

Entering the new year, Francis Maude gave a speech at the Sprint 14 event setting out plans for a further £100 million to be spent with SMEs offering digital services by the next General Election, which happened to be in may the following year. Despite the obvious successes, and plans for G Cloud 5 (G5) beginning to take shape, research carried out by the 6 Degree Group in early 2014 claimed that nearly 90 per cent of local authorities had still not heard of G-Cloud. The GDS therefore set about sharing success stories from users and increasing awareness of G-Cloud across the wider public sector.

G5 started accepting submissions in February and went live in May 2014 with 1,132 suppliers. The lots remained the same as previous framework iterations: Lot 1: Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS); Lot 2: Platform As A Service (PaaS); Lot 3: Software As A Service (SaaS); and Lot 4: Specialist Cloud Services (SCS). G5 brought the total number of suppliers on CloudStore to 1,518 and over 17,000 services, 9,236 of them new and 88 per cent of which were SMEs.

By July, G Cloud sales figures broke the £200 million barrier with a total spend of £217,455,674.39. CloudStore revealed that £116 million of this was with SMEs. The same month it was announced that the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead would be the first UK local authority to move to an entirely cloud-based infrastructure, with the authority spending just £100,000 setting it up. The solutions used to establish this included services bought through the G-Cloud framework.

A history of public sector procurement: recalling the cloud

The next challenge
Both the CloudStore and the Digital Services Store were to be replaced by the Digital Marketplace, providing one place for the public sector to buy digital and IT services and be the new home for G-Cloud services. The idea of the Digital Marketplace was initially conceived to simply replace, feature-for-feature, the existing CloudStore, but as G Cloud developed the brief and requirements also progressed.

With total sales reaching over a quarter of a billion pounds, the next iterations of the G Cloud and Digital Services frameworks were given a launch date of the end of October, with the aim of getting the new frameworks in place as early in 2015 as possible (February 2015). The lots for G Cloud 6 (G6) remained exactly the same as they were for all previous iterations, looking at Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service and Specialist Cloud Services to support transition to SaaS, PaaS and IaaS.

At this point G-Cloud had been a resounding success, delivering a ground-breaking commissioning framework that provides businesses of all sizes the same opportunity to offer commodity cloud services to government. It helped create a transparent and competitive market that opened up barriers to entry for small and medium-size businesses. In August, sales continued to grow at a fantastic rate and hit £314 million. £168 million (53 per cent) of sales were with SMEs. The previous July, when G-Cloud moved into GDS, monthly sales were averaging £8 million. By August 2014, monthly sales have increased to £27 million – nearly two and half times more. The Crown Commercial Service also introduced a new tool (BravoSolution) as part of G6 to improve the G-Cloud procurement.

This iteration saw 1,453 suppliers, up by over 15 per cent on G5 applications and 10,827 new services added to the Digital Marketplace. It also saw 516 new suppliers added to the framework, bringing the total number of suppliers on the Digital Marketplace to 1,852 (87 per cent SMEs), with 19,966 services available. By the end of the year, sales reached over £345 million, averaging £27 million a month. Nearly three yers on from the introduction of G Cloud, the department prided itself on the knowledge that 53 per cent of total sales by value and 61 per cent by volume had been awarded to SMEs. Crown Commercial Service then opened submissions for G Cloud 7 (G7) at the end of August 2015. The G6 framework was due to end at the beginning of February 2016, but was extended several times to ensure that existing suppliers had time to apply to be on the G-Cloud 8 (G8) framework.

New suppliers keep arriving
G7 services went live on the Digital Marketplace on 23 November 2015, meaning the public sector now had access to more services and suppliers of different sizes across the UK. G7 attracted a higher number of new suppliers than any previous iteration of the G-Cloud framework. Crown Commercial Service now boasted of 709 new suppliers on the G7 framework, 95 per cent of which were SMEs. There were 516 for G6, 89 per cent of those being SMEs. The total number of suppliers on the G-Cloud framework (G6 and G7) now stood at 2,566 and the public sector now had access to 22,080 services.

The Digital Market Place also began working more closely with Crown Commercial Service and the Government Legal Department (GLD) to find an efficient, legally compliant way for G Cloud suppliers to update their services.

As of March 2016, the total sales made through G-Cloud since its inception four years ago surpassed the £1 billion mark. This total was helped by a significant number of sales, totalling £47 million, for the first month of 2016. This continued use of G-Cloud suggests that the public sector was becoming increasingly involved with cloud based services, products and consultancy, quashing previous views regrading adoption, and also proving that government organisations had become accustomed to choosing the framework to procure these.

The average deal made in January 2016 was £14,329, with the largest deal made between Deloitte and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust for £1 million of undisclosed cloud services. This was followed by a £530,000 deal between the Ministry of Justice and Liberata, as well as a £400,000 contract between Maindec and the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The G-Cloud framework agreement continued to offer off-the-shelf, pay-as-you-go cloud solutions which span the same four ‘Lots’: infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, software as a service, and specialist cloud services. Infrastructure as a Service covers the provision of processing, storage, networks and other fundamental computing resources that allow the consumer to deploy software, such as operating systems and applications. This is effectively providing organisations with the capability to control their own operating systems, storage and deployed applications, without managing the underlying cloud infrastructure.

Platform as a Service operates slightly differently, in that it provides the consumer with the capability to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider. The consumer has control over the deployed application and possibly configuration settings for the application hosting environment, but does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure, which includes network, servers, operating systems and storage.

Software as Service provides consumers with the capability to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure. These applications are generally accessible from various devices through a client interface, such as a web browser (think web-based email), or a program interface. Consumers may have limited ability to manage user-specific application configuration settings, but the underlying cloud infrastructure, including network, servers, operating systems, storage and most individual application capabilities, are controlled by the provider.

Lot 4, Specialist Cloud Services, continues to support the design and implementations of cloud based services and is split into a number of sub-categories: business analysis, legacy to cloud rationalisation, design/consultation, transition management and service management.

Business analysis is the provision to offer skills to identify and analyse organisational needs and how transferring some or all existing IT systems to cloud based systems could increase efficiencies and savings. Legacy to cloud rationalisation is where suppliers offer the skills to identify which parts of a legacy system or infrastructure could be migrated onto a cloud based system. This kind of service is usually reserved for organisations that have identified potential efficiencies in moving to the cloud, but require some additional support in how to design and implement this transition.

The provision to offer cloud based system designs inclusive of iterative design, development and ongoing maintenance of existing cloud services falls under the design/consultation sub-category of Lot 4. These designs can include the specification of what a solutions could/should look like, and consumers can then purchase that solution ‘off the shelf’ via other Lots or designed by teams and development sourced from other frameworks. Once a customer had a system design in place, they could then call on suppliers to handle the transition management, in which they manage the actual transfer of services onto the cloud based system, including the the on boarding and off boarding of data, the migration of existing services between data centres and end user training.

Customers could also use the G7 to find a supplier that offers continuous service management of their cloud solutions. This would likely include service integration, management of multiple cloud solutions and the integration of cloud and non-cloud services. Additionally, cyber security consultancy is also available on the framework, but this service varies considerably between suppliers based on their area of expertise, meaning that consumers should carefully consider if a supplier matches their specific needs. Services excluded from the G7 framework include co-location services, non-cloud related services, products or consultancy, bespoke digital project build services and hardware.

Increased procurement confidence
August 2016 saw the 8th version of G-Cloud (G8) go live on the government’s Digital Marketplace. Targeted at easing the procurement of cloud computing based information technology services by public-sector bodies, the G-Cloud consists of a series of framework agreements with suppliers, from which public sector organisations can buy services without needing to run a full tender or competition procurement process. It aims to offer simplicity and ease the procurement burden.

Suppliers sign up to frameworks on the Digital Marketplace, a government online procurement store in kind, from which anyone in the public sector can select their services accordingly. The development of the G-Cloud was the government’s response to the potential efficiencies of the cloud and the need for the public sector to achieve more while spending less money. According to government statistics of the time, G8 attracted the largest number of suppliers since the creation of the G-Cloud, with 94 per cent of the 757 new suppliers being a SME. Over half of the £1.3 billion spent through the G-Cloud has gone to SMEs as of June 2016.

On Cloud 9
The G-Cloud 9 framework agreement, launched in May 2017, was the latest iteration of the framework which allows UK public sector bodies access to cloud computing services via a compliant procurement vehicle. New iterations of the framework were considered at a varying frequency of six-12 months, depending on the demand for and/or availability of new services as the IT cloud market develops.

Launched with 2,847 suppliers, G9 underwent several changes with the aim of providing a more flexible maximum contract length. Earlier versions of G-Cloud were designed to run parallel with its predeceasing agreement by design. However, G9 was run as a single framework, requiring all aspiring and existing suppliers to have registered to offer services. This means that buyers and suppliers would be able to use one set of contracts for all their G-Cloud services. G7 and G8 were removed from the Digital Marketplace when G9 service went live.

Meanwhile, Tony Singleton, best known for creating and developing G-Cloud, announced the day before G9 launched that he was to leave the civil service after 35 years. In a blog post on the Government Digital Service he said he would be looking for ‘new challenges’ that would involve ‘helping the public sector turn ideas into reality’. Singleton said his period in government had seen ‘incredible change’ that continues to gather pace, but that more dynamism is needed. Mike Bracken, the former head of the GDS, called Singelton ‘the man who, more than anyone, defined the digital transformation for public servants’ in a Twitter message.

Node4 was one of the companies awarded a place on G9, with the N4 Private Cloud, Cyber Security Services, NetApp Private Storage as a Service (NPSaaS), Storage as a Service (STaaS), Backup as a Service (BUaaS), Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) powered by Cisco and Amazon Web Services (AWS) solutions listed on the framework, making these available to UK public sector organisations.

Paula Johnston, head of Public Sector at Node4, said: “A number of public sector organisations are increasing their use of cloud services due to its flexibility and cost savings. G-Cloud 9 makes it easier for organisations to check which types of suppliers meet the CCS approval criteria and readily engage with them. Being a G-Cloud 9 supplier means that public sector services have better access to Node4’s solutions to run mission-critical systems and services.”

UKCloud was another vendor that celebrated its approval to the agreement. The company committed to delivering more for less on G9, offering further cost reductions across its service catalogue, including its Cross Domain Security Zone (CDSZ), which predicted price falls of up to 50 per cent.

Simon Hansford, CEO, noted: “As a committed supporter of G-Cloud, we welcome the latest iteration which promises to be the best yet, thanks to the comprehensive consultation process undertaken by the Government Digital Service and CCSe. As a supplier to the framework since the very beginning, we are delighted to continue our tradition of releasing several new and enhanced service offerings on the innovative new G-Cloud 9.”

A history of public sector procurement: recalling the cloud

The latest cloud
The 3,505 suppliers on the G-Cloud 10 framework, which gives central government, local councils, NHS trusts and other public sector bodies a way to purchase cloud-based services such as web hosting from a single, central website, is 649 more than featured on the previous iteration of G-Cloud 9.

G-Cloud 10, which could eventually be worth £600 million, is the latest cloud-based framework agreement which has seen more than £3 billion of cloud and digital services procured by public bodies since 2012, with 48 per cent of that spend going directly to SMEs.

Alongside the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework, the G-Cloud framework is transforming government procurement. These two frameworks mean government can buy the right technology and services from the right suppliers at the right price. By making procurement clear and simple, they are opening up the marketplace to suppliers of all sizes and from all parts of the country. They are creating a level playing field that means that all private sector enterprises can be involved in helping government work better for everyone.

It is for use by the UK public sector to buy cloud computing services covering hosting, software and cloud support on a commodity based, pay-as-you go service. A commercial agreement of 12 months’ duration, CCS has said that the duration may be extended for any period up to a maximum of twelve months from the expiry of the initial term, which is set at 1 July 2019.

Discussing the new framework agreement, which went live at the start of July, Oliver Dowden, Minister for Implementation, said: “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, delivering innovative solutions in partnership with the public sector, fuelling economic growth and supporting the delivery of efficient, effective public services that meet the needs of citizens. The success of G-Cloud demonstrates how we are breaking down the barriers for SMEs who want to supply to government.”

Simpler for suppliers
Writing on the Government Digital Service blog, Ben Welby and Patrick Opoosun explained back in April how GDS has made things simpler for suppliers on G-Cloud 10, and, now that it is open for business, the content is worth revisiting. G-Cloud 10 is run as a collaboration between the Government Digital Service and the Crown Commercial Service and is operated through the Digital Marketplace.

G-Cloud 10 is in response to supplier needs to refresh services and open the market up to new suppliers, but, because CCS and GDS were able to meet these needs without overhauling or radically changing G-Cloud 9, it took a minimum viable product (MVP) approach, meaning it could launch quickly and give the market what it needed.

G-Cloud 10 is an iteration of G-Cloud 9, which means existing suppliers should be familiar with it. But a few important improvements and extensions have been made. As well as cloud services, suppliers can now apply to sell cyber security services on G-Cloud 10. This includes services that are assured under these National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) schemes: Cyber Security Consultancy; Penetration Testing (CHECK); and Cyber Incident Response (CIR).

GDS has also created a new supplier section on the Digital Marketplace, which lets suppliers store essential information such as company contact details and registration information centrally. The supplier section runs across both the G-Cloud and Digital Outcomes and Specialists frameworks and means suppliers no longer have to fill out information for each individual application. They can just enter the information once and use it again and again, saving time on applications.

While new suppliers applied to G-Cloud 10 by creating a supplier account, existing suppliers on G-Cloud 9 also needed to apply, but to make things simpler for them, GDS redesigned the process to allow them to simply copy over their G-Cloud 9 declaration and services into G-Cloud 10.

Three Lots
There are three Lots to the G-Cloud 10 agreement, looking at Cloud Hosting (Lot 1), Cloud Software (Lot 2) and Cloud Support (Lot 3). To be included in Lot 1, are cloud platform or infrastructure services that can help buyers do at least one of deploying, managing and running software and provision and use processing, storage or networking resources. Lot 2 companies must be applications that are typically accessed over a public or private network e.g. the internet and hosted in the cloud, while those included in Lot 3 must help buyers set up and maintain their cloud software or hosting services.

Cloud adoption in 2018
Back in March, not-for-profit provider technology company Eduserv and Socitm published a report, Local government cloud adoption in 2018, which surveyed 373 local councils across England, as well as interviews with a range of technology leaders on local government. It found that, five years on from the Cabinet Office’s ‘cloud first’ policy, the majority of councils have yet to formalise the way they will use cloud in their organisation.

With previous research from 2016 finding that 39 per cent of councils had a cloud IT policy, the 2018 iteration of the research reports that 38 per cent of councils have a policy governing the deployment of Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud infrastructure, 43 per cent have guidance or a strategy for the use of Saas and 44 per cent have guidance or a strategy for cloud infrastructure.

Public cloud is now the most commonly used form of cloud computing among councils. The two authoring organisations claim that councils are clearly ‘cloud aware’, and while there may not be a formal strategy for the whole organisation, they are making decisions on a case-by-case basis and being opportunistic about where cloud IT can play a role. With policy taking a long time to filter down through organisations, the somewhat strange decision of not having an organisation-wide cloud strategy becomes slightly more understandable. It appears that council IT teams are content to adopt cloud as and when, especially if they can support operations areas which will see immediate benefits.

Roy Grant, head of ICT at York City Council, said: “In the past, councils have focused on delivering big IT infrastructure projects, often across the council and normally in partnership with the big IT suppliers. In doing this, we have ended up with the equivalent of a slow-moving oil tanker where changing direction takes time and is far more complicated than it needs to be. The way we are approaching our IT is to focus on our users and bring in agile ways of working which can deliver change at a faster pace. That means working at different speeds with different parts of the business. It also means identifying and deploying applications and infrastructure which allows us to meet the priorities of the business as they emerge. Moving away from ‘big IT’ has allowed us to quickly deliver projects which in the past have taken a long time to go nowhere.”

Other figures from the report highlight that 62 per cent of councils store data in the cloud, up from 52 per cent in 2016. Furthermore, 81 per cent use one or more on-premise datacentre(s), 42 per cent use a third-party data centre and 64 per cent of councils use both on-premise and cloud hosting. Society pinpoint the decision of councils to run cloud alongside on-premise systems rather than displace existing IT infrastructure. The result is that a ‘hybrid model for IT’ is now domanant in local government, with nearly two thirds of councils deploying IT in this way.

However, for many organisations, greater cloud use is being delayed by the need to first bring stability and then rationalise existing IT infrastructure. There is no escaping that the demands of legacy IT will continue to consume resources which might otherwise be directed at delivering a more rapid move to cloud.

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