Hannah Paterson, Principal Consultant at Step5, shares her views on working with, not against, UK Government frameworks to better support digital transformation
Now in its twelfth iteration, G-Cloud 12, the UK Government framework for procuring cloud computing services, has evolved significantly since its first release in 2012. Divided into three lots,
- Lot 1: Cloud Hosting (IaaS and PaaS)
- Lot 2: Cloud Software (SaaS)
- Lot 3: (Cloud Support),
G-Cloud 12 underpins the Crown Commercial Service’s “Cloud First” objective.
This framework and other Government frameworks like it such as DOS (Digital Outcomes and Specialists), provides a fast, standard way to procure services in an industry that changes rapidly and that Government struggles to keep up with. Procuring in this way has undeniable benefits; it is a profitable and successful approach to working with Government, particularly Central Government bodies. However, it does present certain challenges, particularly with respect to digital transformation activities.
An onerous process for SMEs
For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the investment in time and effort needed to apply to the framework and then maintain and review opportunities is significant, especially for companies that provide more than one specialist service. With G-Cloud 12, the workload has increased with the requirement to provide a service definition document and monthly performance reporting. In fact, applying for and managing membership of this framework is so involved that it has become an industry in its own right, with a number of consultancies offering services to help businesses manage the process.
Being accepted onto the framework is only half the battle
Once a business’ application has been successful, there is a certain amount of skill and coordination involved in making it onto a shortlist and then being selected. The buyer is going to be conducting a keyword search as the first pass, so they need to have a 100% match with a service offering to start the process.
Getting into the mind of the buyer and describing services in the right way takes time and practice. Organisations keen to increase their hit rate should take full advantage of the clarification questions process to understand what has and hasn’t worked in the past.
Too rigid for true transformation
A one-size-fits-all approach may work for ‘business as usual’ activities, but it is at odds with digital transformation. Writing a service definition for a digital transformation programme without fully understand- ing the context and the objectives is unlikely to lead to a successful outcome.
A standardised procurement process may be fine when buyers are looking for an established service or a specific item from a catalogue, but it misses the opportunity to innovate, both from a technology and commercial point of view. Transformation requires the ability to look at things differently and often means introducing alternative commercial models such as gain share or transformation-based cost savings to deliver real value. Current Government procurement frameworks don’t allow for this – they are geared towards buying a service for a total contract value – which means that in their current form they will struggle to support and deliver true transformation.
Here to stay
Despite the framework’s shortcomings, this procurement model has been shown to work. Crown Commercial Service reported a £5.7 billion spend on G-Cloud since 2012 and over 40% of that went to SMEs. This way of buying is not going anywhere soon, so businesses need to work with it, not against it. For SMEs that means making the organisational decision to be ‘in’ and then fully committing – investing in managing the process, maintaining their service definitions and working the clarification process to gain as much insight as possible. For companies offering digital transformation services, that means overlooking the framework’s imperfections and recognising that this is the way things are done. And by being part of the framework and winning work through the lots, such companies can establish themselves as part of the supplier landscape, putting them in the ideal position when the conversation turns to enabling true transformation.
Technology procurement in the UK
Crown Commercial Service (CCS) helps the public sector in the UK save money when buying common services and goods. In summary, CCS works with the public and third sectors to buy items such as locum doctors and laptops, as well as electricity and police cars. Daily purchases can be bought online for speedy delivery, such as technology products and multi-function devices for copying, printing and scanning. (1)
Picking up briefly on the aforementioned theme of technology procurement, we know that the public and the third sector must make the right decisions in this vein. CCS can help you explore the “constantly evolving technology market” and “new ways of working and delivering frameworks, finding solutions that reflect the best route and use of technology for your organisation”. (2)
One technology solution, G-Cloud 12 means that UK public sector bodies can purchase cloud computing services, including hosting, and software on a commodity-based electronic online catalogue. Split into three lots, the agreement consists of: Cloud hosting – infrastructure and platform as a service; Cloud software – software as a service plus Cloud support – specialist cloud services and replaces RM1557.11. (3) Other solutions in the field are Automation Marketplace DPS, Digital Outcomes & Specialists (DOS) 4 and Quality Assurance and Testing for IT Systems 2.
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