A year ago today something groundbreaking happened in government ICT. 

After much speculation, government IT reformers secured a well-deserved victory and the G-Cloud Framework – and a new era in government technology procurement – was born.

More than two years prior to the launch of the G-Cloud framework, Vivek Kundra, CIO of the U.S. federal government, had published his very ambitious 25-point implementation plan for delivering more value to the American taxpayer. This included a Cloud First policy across all branches of the U.S. federal computing market in the hope that moving services such as email, legacy software, archiving and infrastructure services to the cloud would result in significant cost savings and greater efficiencies. Meanwhile, the technology procurement in the UK public sector continued to be dominated by decade long contracts, legacy systems that simply weren’t built for today’s mobile workforce and a handful of big integrators and technology goliaths.

Cue the sigh of relief as the CloudStore went live and a cloud-based directory of 1,700 services from more than 250 suppliers was unveiled. These services were pre-approved (so security concerns could be laid to rest) and ready to be used – a true first for UK Government.  Suppliers and government departments alike allowed themselves to dream of a world without the complex, lengthy bid processes. Issues such as how to collaborate effectively across the firewall, support a mobile workforce and share information between departments could now be solved in days rather months, so productivity and cost savings could prevail. There was no need for single tender justification and, with a marketplace for government cloud services, there was the possibility of real competition in the space, which would help drive innovation. Finally, growing UK businesses had a chance to secure the Holy Grail – a government contract.

So, one year and two iterations of the Framework on, what is the status of government cloud computing in the UK? Well there is no doubt the Framework was a milestone, but there is some way to go before we can celebrate ongoing success. The launch of the G-Cloud Framework was just the first hurdle. Actually getting public sector organizations to purchase via the CloudStore is the bigger challenge ahead. So here is what I would like to see happen over the next 12 months:

  • Cloud First strategy: The UK government needs to take a leaf out of its U.S. counterpart’s book and mandate a “Cloud First” strategy and push the cloud from the top down. Unless this happens, we will get left behind when it comes to widespread cloud adoption.
  • A culture shift within the Government Procurement Service:  The G-Cloud framework offers public sector organizations a new way to procure IT services, but old habits die hard and the GPS is used to solving complicated issues with big, complex technology systems. This is one of the key reasons why government has habitually turned to the tech goliaths and integrators. This now has to change and the GPS needs to recognize that the new way of working is for the benefit of not only public sector organizations, but also the taxpayer.
 
  • Keep the G-Cloud’s “level the playing field” and true cloud sentiments:  To drive cloud uptake, the government must stay focused on a small number of highly specialized cloud services, like Huddle, that have strived to bring cloud benefits to the public sector from the start. It’s no coincidence that Huddle is used by 80% of central UK government departments! Widening the G-Cloud’s remit could result in fragmentation, stifle innovation, and prompt government bodies to shun cloud services. If you give people the option to select larger integrators and suppliers, then of course they will revert to what they know.

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