Kate's Comment

Thoughts on British ICT, energy & environment, cloud computing and security from Memset's MD

First meeting of the cloudy SME collective (10% group)

A group of SMEs (the 10% group) met Liam Maxwell last month to discuss our experiences with GCloud. We recognised that GCloud is starting to change the way the public sector buys commodity IT services but also that it has a long way to go. The key issues discussed were:

  • The need for further improvements with the GCloud processes and CloudStore, to make this a slick, dynamic way to both buy and sell
  • Culture change and user behaviour – no matter how good the processes and websites, GCloud will only be successful if people use it. People at the top have got the message but it needs embedding down the line and across the breadth of the public sector
  • Buyers are not following GCloud guidance or Ts and Cs: some require an unnecessary mini-competition while others let work to one supplier without informing shortlisted suppliers
  • Spending controls, which can be used to drive change, only apply to £5m+ purchases so much of GCloud business will not be captured. In particular, large Change Control Notices on old contracts were taking business which should be going to GCloud
  • Suppliers were keen to get more opportunities to talk to key staff, to directly address their concerns about dealing with GCloud and with SMEs, and to understand the services they want to buy
  • Security and accreditation were serious blockers to SMEs gaining market share. New entrants are being stalled by PSN not delivering IL3-accredited connection services, and the GCloud accreditation processes are a moving target and are very labour-intensive, with nugatory parallel processes for PSN adding to the load
  • The new Government Protective Marking Scheme being introduced next year would help – eventually – but it will take time to change long-established custom and practice and for mind sets to change from national security to commercial security as the baseline
  • The contractual landscape is being simplified with some frameworks being killed off. GCloud is for all commodity, alongside a few other frameworks such as the Digital framework which is specifically to deliver skills for 25 exemplar programmes across central government

All participants found the discussion helpful, with Liam Maxwell asking suppliers to use Mystery Shopper (email MysteryShopper@cabinet-office.gsi.gov.uk) to report any public sector procurement issues, to let him know of scenarios which demonstrate the savings to be made through GCloud, and to suggest ideas for qualifying suppliers onto GCloud to ensure all services are of a satisfactory standard. The move of GCloud from being a project to being a GDS business will enable changes to be made and resources applied to make GCloud a success as a shop for all commodity services and products across the public sector.

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