In theory, there is much to recommend the G-Cloud. Buying from the cloud leads to greater flexibility, an opportunity to eliminate involvement in long term contracts and cost savings from only using services on an ‘as and when required’ basis.
Unfortunately, while these benefits have been widely touted for three or four years, what looked good on paper hasn’t translated into practical applications on the ground. Government and public sector businesses are today facing major challenges in implementing the G-Cloud and maximising benefits gleaned as a result.
One problem facing the G-Cloud is how to manage change. A number of SMBs have been selected to put their services on the catalogue, but technology is currently advancing at its fastest rate ever. This raises some serious questions: how can government, 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 it maintain ‘flexibility for change’?
There will also be 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? After all, these agencies are typically less culturally advanced than businesses in the private sector - and it is debatable whether government users are yet ready for the kind of transformation that moving to the cloud may bring in the way they interact with IT systems and services.
Finally, there are issues around the way that the framework is promoted. There are currently many government frameworks in existence, and suppliers can incur huge ‘costs of sale’ getting onto these. In my view, the government needs to market its frameworks more aggressively to other agencies to ensure that the take-up gives a good return to suppliers who have often spent significant sums on this process.
This is not to say that the G-Cloud will fail, just that the time may not yet be right for it to succeed.
In two or three years, when we witness the next iteration of CloudStore, the public sector is likely to be more mature in its approach to procurement and better prepared to take advantage of the potential benefits that G-Cloud can offer. Maybe then, we will finally see theory change into practice and the start of real change in the way this country’s public sector procures and operates ICT.
by Andrew Carr, sales and marketing director, Bull UK