Making the next iteration of G-Cloud a success

The G-Cloud Framework, developed by Crown Commercial Service some seven years ago helps government organisations obtain best value from their IT spend. In July 2020 the new iteration of the framework will be launched, but how will suppliers meet the challenges that continue to face potential customers?

G-Cloud 12 is imminent, providing an opportunity for new suppliers to access a huge market of public sector buyers. Currently, the G-Cloud 11 framework is made up of 4,000 suppliers and to some extent it delivers a straightforward and simple buying process.

Suppliers demonstrate a commitment to working with public sector to showcase the benefits and cost effectiveness of their software and systems to enable digital transformation and also ease the procurement process, and the framework continues to evolve and develop. However, historical problems remain and it is evident that the parameters can always be more effective, budget-friendly and progressive.

Prior to 2012, when the G-Cloud framework was first introduced, procurement used to be a big barrier for new companies challenging incumbents. Today, the flexibility of G-Cloud can massively reduce this potential blocker to sales.

At the London-based G-Cloud 11 Summit, organised by Public Sector Information in January, suppliers demonstrated their vast range of innovative services to public sector buyers, offering modern, flexible, low maintenance systems to help councils deliver improvements to the way they deliver services. But, delegates agreed that, as is always the case with implementation projects, the need to save time and money remains a challenge for procurement managers.

What matters
For the new iteration to be a success, it’s the kind of products and services that will be found on G-Cloud 12 that will matter. Agility, flexibility and ultimately speed will be real winners as councils’ race to improve their services and find efficiencies.

Chris Farthing, CEO of Advice Cloud, explains: “It all comes down to planning and delivering to the buyer exactly what they need in the least amount of time. Buyers can help this process run smoother by talking to their [potential] suppliers upfront, as well as talking to others who’ve used the technology they are choosing.”

Jos Creese, independent digital analyst and consultant and CEO of CCL agrees. “A partnership approach is necessary … this can help IT suppliers to better understand the changing nature of public services requirements, and for the public service organisation to be clear on the risks and technical opportunities proposed.”

The culture of the companies providing the technology matters too. Suppliers now recognise that it is simply not enough to stop working hard to offer great service just by winning a slot on the G-Cloud marketplace list. Once listed the real work starts.

Farthing adds: “Make sure you begin the planning process right from the start. Digital transformation in councils requires a large number of new human capabilities as well as technology ones. This is expensive, and they can’t afford to get it wrong. Support your customers from the very beginning so that together you can affect genuine change.”

The role of SMEs
That is not to say that the current G-Cloud 11 framework does not provide a great platform for selling into a market desperate for this kind of support and it is hoped that under the 12th iteration of G-Cloud, entrant SMEs - which are often in a strong position to spend more time and effort on hard-won contracts - will be given more support to win digital marketplace business.

Currently, over 90 per cent of all suppliers listed in the G-Cloud framework are SMEs, a healthy amount indeed. Yet just 44 per cent of contracts awarded go to SMEs as they continue to struggle to win the business of G-Cloud spend as hundreds of new suppliers join with every new iteration. A classic case of supply outstripping demand.  

Moving forward, the outlook is somewhat different. Crown Commercial Service recognises the importance of the SME marketplace in the G-Cloud framework structure. As a result, it is working hard to develop an understanding of SMEs and how buyers can work with them.

Georgina Maratheftis, head of local public services at techUK, argues: “The public sector needs to harness the expertise and innovation that SMEs can bring in order to ensure that public service delivery keeps pace with demand and expectations. By adopting a more strategic approach to market engagement and engaging with industry outside the procurement cycle, the number of SMEs winning contracts can be significantly increased and they can be in a position to enjoy the contract success rates currently seen by tech giants. Foster the partnership ecosystem and evangelise through your networks.”

Additional developments
Each iteration is an exercise in improvement. Under G-Cloud 12, service definition documents will be mandatory, making it easier for buyers to compare and contrast what is on offer. At the same time, it is hoped that this measure will incentivise suppliers to up the quality of their listings, says the CCS, as documents are essentially a guidance for buyers.

Contracting issues are also being ironed out. Suppliers and buyers alike have long been confused by complicated and prolonged legalities, which only serve to delay the delivery period of infrastructure. Simplifying the process will – it is hoped – bring transparency and clarity to an historically convoluted sector.  

G-Cloud myth busting, from Chris Farthing, CEO Advice Cloud
- It’s only for Central Government
- You can’t buy hardware
- Cloud support can only be bought when buying a Lot 1 or 2 service
- It’s only for the big suppliers
- Cost - You can’t negotiate contracts/pricing – actually, you can
- You can’t extend contracts past two years
- I need to observe the standstill period on a G-Cloud call off
- I don’t need to provide feedback
- My contract would be ‘too big’ for the framework
- Contract termination

Have a play about - use the thing!
Talk to your (potential) suppliers upfront
Talk to procurement early
Involve lawyers early!
Talk to others who’ve used it
Talk to your facilities people (utilities/consumption based invoicing)

Top tips from Georgina Maratheftis, techUK
- Adopt a more strategic approach to market engagement and engage with industry outside the procurement cycle
- Develop an understanding of SMEs and how to work with them
- Foster the partnership ecosystem
- Evangelise through your networks

This article was written by Sarah Cowell, following the recent G-Cloud 11 Summit on 29 January.

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