Speaking at an Equiniti-sponsored event in Belfast recently Stephen Allott, Crown Representative for Small and Medium Enterprises in the Cabinet Office stated he felt it was likely procurement through G-Cloud would reach the £1 Billion mark in 2015. Even allowing for bias on account of rhetoric, this is some achievement and translates to roughly £120M a year off the public sector IT bill since 2012 - in other words: 16,000 nurses, 16 miles of motorway or one hospital.
That must make the G-Cloud framework - the Crown Commercial Service initiative aimed at easing procurement by public sector bodies to enable greater savings which began in 2012 - the jewel in the governement's digital crown.
Settle down at the back, this isn’t an apologia for the Crown Commercial Service and their work digitising government services. Far from it, there is a lot that could be changed - particularly government’s paltry promotion of the service - but the CCS deserves credit for initiating a program of digitisation that has for the most part worked.
Perhaps just as remarkable as any saving, the framework has managed to please both business and public sector procurement. Having already delivered a large-scale time management system procurement and replacement within Her Majesty's Passport Office, Giles Andrewes explained the benefits of G-Cloud as he had experienced it.
“I wasn’t so sure about the framework (G-Cloud) at the start. There were challenges from my point of view,” HMPO IT Service Delivery Manager Andrewes said.
“And I still feel that the two-year contract is limiting. I would be very surprised if a business would want to take time to procure and build a solution only to then redo the process after 24 months. Perhaps three years plus one, plus one would be a better option.”
Despite these frustrations Andrewes was keen to highlight the benefits of the government system.
“In terms of advantages G-Cloud provides a quick route to market and early engagement with suppliers - I am not aware of any procurement method or framework that allows you to do that in the same way.”
Poacher to Andrewes’ gamekeeper Nigel Farr, a director with Equiniti, explains that he has seen a sea-change in how his business has operated post G-Cloud. “We have seen a transformation as a medium supplier,” Farr said.
“Previously we saw significant barriers to doing business with government. It seems as if G-Cloud has allowed business to move away from the restrictive and not very efficient contracts. There is a process that still has to be followed and there is plenty of work to be done on procurement but we are more than happy to put the resources into this. “Perhaps the most important aspect of the framework is that it allows the focus to be on the business needs rather than anything else.”
Despite the successes, Government cannot afford to rest on its cloud servers. In 2012 the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs E-Government Survey ranked the UK as the third most innovative e-government in the world behind Republic of Korea and Netherlands, but last year the UK had dropped to 8th - a worrying sign and something for the next UK government to think about.
Author A.P. Maginness – Marketing Executive of Equiniti ICS