G-Cloud needs more blue-sky thinking says founder

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The architects of G-Cloud, the UK public sector procurement framework for information technology services that use cloud computing, are calling on government, departments, the Government Digital Service (GDS), buyers and sellers to do more to encourage its adoption four years after its initial launch.

Unveiled in 2011, G-Cloud is a general term for agreements with suppliers that set out terms and conditions under which purchases can be made throughout the term of the agreement. The difference between G-Cloud and other frameworks is that buyers pay for services as they are used, rather than being tied to inflexible, long-term contracts.

At the start of the original G-Cloud programme, Chris Chant, then Cabinet Office Executive Director in charge of the G-Cloud and now a director of Rainmaker Solutions, delivered his “Unacceptable” speech which took a dim view of IT procurement in government and began with these words:

“The vast majority of government IT in my view is outrageously expensive, is ridiculously slow, or agile-less, is poor quality in the main and, most unforgivably I think, is rarely user-centric in any meaningful way at all.”

Speaking yesterday at the THINK Cloud for Government 2015 event in London, Chant said:

“There are still too many examples of bad practice, too much adherence to the influence of the systems integrators and not enough adoption of agile, iterative and efficient services available through frameworks such as G-Cloud. So much has changed, so much has been done, but we still need to speak openly about the need for change and what is still wrong.”

Chant’s “#Unacceptable2” speech laid out a raft of further observations and criticisms that he believes need to be addressed if the full potential of G-Cloud is to be realised.

He offered this advice:

“Don’t procure before design. It is imperative that design is user led. Meet the payment promises Ministers have made for SMEs. Educate buyers widely across government. Create showcases and publish them widely.

Create platforms for open collaboration between buyers and suppliers. And put the Digital Services Framework under GDS where it belongs.”

Co-presenter of #Unacceptable2, founder of Rainmaker Solutions and former G-Cloud team member, Jan Joubert, added:

“Of course we should celebrate the many positive aspects of G-Cloud which include revenues reaching around £500million, SME adoption of the framework has been excellent and many SMEs have been able to create new jobs to fulfil G-Cloud contracts.

“However, this does not mean that the battle is over. Government departments persist with the large systems integrators, G-Cloud is not widely adopted outside of central government, authorities still sign 10-year contracts and unfortunately bad practices and inefficiencies still abound.”

“The first thing we need to do is propagate the G-Cloud and Digital Agenda properly right across government. It is not good enough to contain it to central government and hope for the best.

“Then we need to unshackle GDS from the Crown Commercial Service. We need to empower GDS to ensure that the original spirit of the G-Cloud programme is maintained and that we continue to make it easy for new suppliers to enter this market. GDS must be the force that drives Francis Maude’s ‘cloud first’ mandate, not just into central government but into the wider public sector as well – as a priority.

“We have had some early success but the battle is not over. As we have demonstrated with #Unacceptable2 there is still much to be done. Now is the time to push on from the early success and to ensure that the change we have all been a part of driving is here to stay. Paying us in five days would be delightful, but just hit 30 for a start.”

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