Since its launch in 2012, G-Cloud has been under constant scrutiny from service providers, end users and the general media alike.
The framework was created to open up the market and help small – medium (SME) suppliers deliver IT services into government departments, local authorities and the wider public sector.
It promised to create a competitive ecosystem that would increase service quality and drive down cost, offering organisations demonstrably better value for money and the ability to pinpoint the exact right services for their needs across multiple service provider portfolios.
>See also: Has G-Cloud gone off the rails?
This approach represents a clear challenge to the traditional remit of large systems integrators and multi million pound aggregated government contracts.
Now in its sixth iteration, there are 1,453 suppliers available through the open and transparent Digital Marketplace and the Government Procurement Service (GPS) has predicted that spend through G-Cloud could reach £215 million by 2017. However, as with any new system, it’s taking time to bed in.
Some end users still find the process too confusing and heavyweight – for example, having to take screen shots of search results listings and retain outside the Marketplace for audit purposes to prove compliant procurement.
There is also no simple way of searching on the platform for non-technical personnel – and the Digital Marketplace user base is broad in job function – so if you don’t know how to describe exactly what you want, it is hard to work out whose services are appropriate to your needs.
This additionally encourages ‘in spite of’ behaviour – including agreeing specific search terms in advance with incumbent suppliers to answer the letter of the mandate if not the spirit of the more open market.
From a service provider perspective, the new ‘searchscape’ offered by the portal is incomplete. A lack of analytics services makes it difficult for new market entrants to validate the relevance of their propositions and really understand what users are looking for, which offers little benefit to either party, lends advantage to established government suppliers and increases the programme’s overall time to value.
With such an array of suppliers and services, organisations need to know how to get the most out of the Digital Marketplace. Here are seven steps to doing so.
1. Work out what your requirements are
This is the first question the Digital Marketplace will ask a user so you need to be prepared to state your needs exactly. Security requirements such as understanding compliance, storage, data protection and automation are essential. There are around 20,000 services available on G-Cloud so it's hard to know where to start unless you have specific requirements.
2. Or find out what you don’t know – then do your research
If you don’t know or fully understand your technical requirements, get some help – as it is fundamental technical requirements that drive the Digital Marketplace rather than provider preferences. Make sure you consider your infrastructure, network and software. Seek advice from framework-approved service providers to define your requirements – they specialise in translating your desired outcomes into technical specifications and are ultimately responsible for designing solutions that are relevant to market needs.
3. Evaluate the service provider for their technical, operational and commercial capabilities in the same way as you defined your performance requirements
Conduct a search on the Digital Marketplace and then filter and evaluate your requirements. Think about which of the two core evaluation models you plan to use: Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) or simply lowest price.
Use a per -workload or -application score to create a waterline of those providers which can deliver your requirements. Once you have assessed this, consider the true costs and the business impact to the payment schedule.
In addition, consider the importance of a single accountable provider who will then be able to work with you as your partner rather than your supplier and will have a better understanding of your objectives. A good service provider will be able to talk to you in terms of business outcomes rather than technical specifications.
4. Don’t fly blind
If you require infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), 1,698 options come up, so you might feel like you’re searching for a needle in a haystack. Draw up a shortlist of providers and talk to them about the services they offer.
Find out from other customers how they have benefitted from working with that supplier. Once satisfied, you can be much more targeted in your G-Cloud searching.
5. Remove your Google glasses
It’s difficult to get out of the ‘Google habit’ of assuming that only the best services are on the first page. No one bothers with page two anymore, do they? However, it’s important to remember that G-Cloud doesn’t work like that. The services at the bottom might in fact be a better fit for your organisation than those at the top.
6. Leverage the framework’s agility
The beauty of G-Cloud is that it offer public sector organisations that ability to create true performance-based engagements. With short contract terms, if a provider is not living up to expectation or delivering to SLA, their contract can be easily and swiftly terminated – a large departure from traditional five-plus year systems integrator service contracts.
It is extremely important to ensure you can capitalise on this agility of engagement so ask searching questions about potential providers’ offboarding processes as well as onboarding – your workloads need to be portable to ensure continuity.
7. Consider your future organisational plans
This is especially important if you are approaching the end of the tax year, or an election. Budgets change and you need your IT procurements to support that change.
The government is committed to G-Cloud and continually evaluates how public sector IT procurement can be simplified. G-Cloud has developed tremendously in three years – by September 2014 it was calculated that a staggering £168 million of contracts had been awarded to small and medium enterprises. We wait with bated breath to see what G-Cloud 7 will bring.
Sourced from Kevin Linsell, Adapt