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G-Cloud’s biggest problem? Its public sector customers

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So the seventh iteration of G-Cloud is now live and there seems to be a global recognition that the new procurement framework continues to be a good thing, a win-win for all. It’s levelled the playing field for suppliers; brings unrivalled opportunities for SME vendors; introduced a huge catalogue of proven, transparent IT products and services for the public sector; and rewritten the contractual rulebook to simplify purchasing. Close on £0.9billion of business had been generated through G-Cloud – surely a clear indicator of success.

I guess that depends on how high you aim. Having worked in this space over the past five years, I’m convinced that it could have, should have been more – and that moving forward, G-Cloud has the ability to outstrip government ambition five or even tenfold. But that means dealing with G-Cloud’s biggest problem – the public sector itself.

For every new organisation that I meet on the way to becoming a client via G-Cloud, there are another couple of dozen who can’t – or won’t – engage to find out what is even possible. I’m not sure of the reasons for this reticence: Is it just a case of better the devil you know? A lack of belief in perceived ‘smaller’ suppliers? Do they feel too locked in to even think there may be a different way, a better way? Too conservative to change? Is it just natural caution around the Cloud, although research suggests that the public sector has now moved beyond the early adopter stage? Maybe it’s even ignorance of the G-Cloud initiative itself? Or if not ignorance, perhaps a hesitancy around an unfamiliar procurement framework, despite the fact that it was designed to make everything very much quicker and easier?

One thing I do know for sure though is that such reluctance can’t go on. Public sector organisations and government departments and agencies need to understand that the IT world unlocked by G-Cloud is the world they need to inhabit. Our own public sector clients are now in that world, most of them taking infrastructure-as-a-service. Their IT life is now characterised by agility, responsiveness, speed and alignment; complete environments are being prepped in hours, new servers spun up in minutes, minor changes actioned by return. Gone is the stifling contractual merry-go-round just to get a minor modification done; gone is the embarrassingly drawn out provisioning period, the tortuous project management. You know the phrase I hear most from my new clients? “A breath of fresh air.” People aren’t used to IT being this straightforward or the people behind it being this responsive and straight up. Those who are still suffocating in their old legacy life need to have a really good think about G-Cloud because it’s their best option for their IT to get well and to get fit.

And that’s why I believe such resistance can’t continue because the ‘get well, get fit’ targets are effectively mandated and they need to be brought in against an enduring backdrop of budgetary constraint and efficiency drive. Getting well has to see those ageing, stuttering platforms brought bang up to date to cope with the day-to-day needs, with client/supplier relationships similarly recalibrated to keep things fluid and nimble and progressive. A small change shouldn’t be a big deal.

Getting fit goes further still, creating that environment in which transformational IT will thrive and prosper. This is not just about future-proofing, it’s about catalysing the innovative projects that will deliver value to UK plc and to you and me as both taxpayers and citizens. That doesn’t just need an agile turn of mind, it needs physical agility too, a scalable and flexible infrastructure built on solid, secure and sophisticated foundations. That’s what my team brings, it’s what our clients are experiencing, it’s the fresh air in that world that they are breathing, with no little relief.

Now while I appreciate that for some it’s departmental policy dictating that they use alternative frameworks, or some may find G-Cloud provisions not suitable, there are others who have yet to truly assess what G-Cloud can offer. That means our job is far from over in terms of conveying why the world of infrastructure as a service is so compelling, such a good fit for that dual ‘get well, get fit’ challenge. The only thing we ask is that we’re met half way, with organisations at least willing to listen if not engage. We get to this point and we’re looking not just at the prospect of more billions pumped into the marketplace but the potential for a truly transformed public sector where anything is possible.

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