The recent announcement that the G-Cloud framework is moving into a ‘business as usual’ state and its ownership will now sit with GDS rather GPS has sparked a flurry of social media activity. Conversations have revolved around what wonderful things the procurement framework has achieved and, while most of the comments are either sycophantic or hyperbole, it’s worth considering if and how this framework has changed government procurement.
It seems like a long time ago now, but it was back in 2008-9 that John Suffolk began evangelising cloud computing as the future. The cloud would enable the public sector to free itself from its reliance on complex and expensive proprietary systems, paving the way to the utopia of an ‘open sourced, open standards and reuse’ world that would save the Government an estimated £1.2bn each year.
Back then, the emphasis of the grand vision was on datacentre consolidation, desktop standardisation and the implementation of a government private cloud. All of this would be made possible by the PSN and the easy sharing of applications (via a Government Application Store) – many of which were to be developed in-house.
For many observers of the G-Cloud , the second half of 2011 proved to be attention-grabbing time. In June 2011, rumours surfaced that the project had been kicked into the long grass. Come October and the Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) was published with a clear roadmap for the birth of the both the G-Cloud and Application Store, as well as a four year savings forecast. In November 2011, less than a month after the release of SIP, John Suffolk announced his resignation.
Following John’s resignation, Chris Chant became the figurehead and principal driver of G-Cloud vehicle and he smoothly pushed through the first iteration of the G-Cloud in February 2012. I’m proud to say that Huddle significantly contributed to making this an early success, securing no less than 89% of the £453,778.38 that was spent in the first two months of the framework going live
In the following 16 months, the G-Cloud had a turbulent time, with Chris Chant retiring in April 2012 and then Denise McDonagh, Andy Nelson and Liam Maxwell all becoming key figures in its growth. A further two iterations has markedly increased the number of vendors grow from just 257 suppliers to 708, encompassing many services that are difficult to class as true “cloud computing”. And now, in what’s unlikely to be the final twist in the tale for the framework that has captured the imagination of so many, is its move into GDS.
So, returning to my original question about whether the G-Cloud has changed anything, I don’t think there’s a straightforward answer. Firstly, what you need to bear in mind when sifting through the adoration that’s showered on G-Cloud team is that the total spend up to the end of April 2013 on the framework has been £22m. This is less than 0.1% of the total government’s ICT spend over the same period. Also, some savings claims appear to be heavily inflated and the Major Projects Authority recently raised a warning flag over project’s success. This may seem to present a fairly gloomy picture, but the G-Cloud really has achieved a huge amount when it comes to breaking the iron grip of big vendors who often put shareholder value before the interests of their customers. It has enabled SMEs vendors to compete on an equal footing for large contracts and put service at the heart of the value for money equation. It’s also a classic example of British innovation that has secured worldwide interest and is now being replicated by other countries. Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium have all wanted to hear more about the frameworks implementation. So, what has the G-Cloud done? In short, a lot conceptually but more needs be done practically. Now that it’s entering its adulthood maybe the G-Cloud’s maturity, reputation and additional resources will enable it to deliver far more.
The Huddle team will be at Think G-Cloud tomorrow, so if you’d like to have a chat and see Huddle in action, head to stand 6.