Thousands of SMEs – but are they getting the contracts?
The latest iteration of a major government procurement framework, G-Cloud 11, now lists a substantial 4,200 potential public sector IT services suppliers, with a healthy 90+ percent of these being small and medium enterprises (SMEs) the Crown Commercial Services revealed this week.
That’s massively up from the 2,847 companies listed on G-Cloud 9.
G-Cloud was launched in 2012 as a way to make it easier for central government, local councils, NHS Trusts and other public sector bodies to procure commodity IT services that use cloud computing. It matches customers and potential suppliers via a single, central website. And for those seeking to move away from sprawling conglomerates for their cloud services, it’s clearly a key port of call.
The public sector has procured more than £4.79 billion of cloud and digital services through G-Cloud since the framework’s launch, with £2.15 billion of that being awarded to SMEs. And Niall Quinn, Director of Crown Commercial Service’s Technology Pillar, said in a release shared July 2: “G-Cloud continues to be a major success story for how we drive innovation in the public sector. G-Cloud is all about simplicity, making it as straightforward as possible for customers and suppliers to find each other.”
G-Cloud 11: Choice Galore, But…
One major criticism of the platform however has been that it is not, in fact, particularly simple nor navigable. As Romy Hughes, a director at consultancy Brightman put it in a recent guest article for Computer Business Review: “The G-Cloud appears to struggle under the sheer volume of suppliers listed on the platform.”
“Combine the high volume of suppliers with a search function that struggles to match them to the most relevant opportunities it is no surprise that many government buyers continue to buy the ‘old fashioned way’ outside of the framework. It is difficult to navigate and very unwieldy, and its search engine is clearly not modelled on Google; it simply fails to match contracts to the most relevant suppliers.”
She added: “As an example of the challenges faced by government purchasers in using the framework, many find themselves turning to third parties just to help them navigate the G-Cloud and find the right supplier for their needs. If you have to pay consultants to help you use your own tools, clearly something has gone very wrong.”
“Ten Years Ago Gov’t Procurement Was All With a Small Number of SIs and Consultancies”
Mark Hastings, head of public sector at IT service management company Rainmaker Solutions disagrees.
He told Computer Business Review: “I really welcome the number of SMEs on G-Cloud 11. Ten years ago government spending was all with small number of SIs and consultancies; an old boys’ network. G-Cloud was about opening up the government marketplace… about breaking the stranglehold that a few organisations had. This week’s figures are further underlying the progress that G-Cloud is making in opening up choice for public sector buyers.”
He added: “In terms of navigability I think it’s straightforward to use – I’m not convinced the ease of use is the issue. The framework itself is easy to use if you know what you’re looking for if. The CCS are doing a lot of good work at the moment to help the public sector understand the opportunities; it’s a fast, transparent way to do procurement and you can get down to shortlisting pretty rapidly.”
“At a time in which public sector procurement has arguably gone backwards – think ferry companies with no ferries – it’s arguably underutilised; there are a lot of excellent specialists on it.”
The CCS put forward Triad, an SME based in Godalming, as a success story.
Triad has been a G-Cloud supplier since 2013, originally winning a place on G-Cloud 2. Adrian Leer, Managing Director of Triad said: “‘Since winning a place on G-Cloud ii in 2013 we have been successful in winning a number of contracts for government. We have been involved in numerous large programmes of work across government and in January 2019 we were ranked 4th of the digital suppliers to government.”
“To be ahead of some of the largest consultancies in the UK as an SME of 70 staff is incredible.”
What are your G-Cloud experiences? Get in touch with Computer Business Review Editor Ed Targett.