Suppliers welcome the advent of G-Cloud 10, but concerns remain
Vendors credit CCS for responding to feedback, though obstacles are unlikely to change soon
Public sector suppliers have welcomed a government turnaround that will now see G-Cloud 10 go live in June 2018.
Vendors will be able to apply to list their services on the public sector cloud procurement framework from April, much sooner than expected after Whitehall had initially mooted extending the previous iteration of G-Cloud into 2019.
Crown Commercial Services' (CCS's) decision to effectively reverse its earlier position means a new glut of small cloud suppliers can bid for government work, while companies already listed on G-Cloud can update the services they offer.
Oliver Dowden, minister for implementation, said: "I'm pleased to confirm that we will re-let the G-Cloud framework, which provides opportunities to many small businesses in the digital sector.
"This will provide innovative online solutions to government, supporting the delivery of efficient, effective public services. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, so it's crucial that we listen to them when shaping policy, as we have done today."
Suppliers can typically expect details of a new version of G-Cloud to circulate around six months before it's due to launch, but by November last year they had yet to receive any information from CCS, which subsequently extended G-Cloud 9 until May 2019.
But rumours of a turnaround have been rumbling for some time, and CCS cancelled a webinar back in January, saying it was "overwhelmed by the feedback we have received for G10".
Suppliers can finally update their offerings
News this week that G-Cloud 10 is once again on the horizon was therefore welcomed by suppliers that rely on the framework for large portions of their businesses.
Nicky Stewart, commercial director of IaaS, PaaS and email provider UKCloud, told Cloud Pro: "I'm absolutely delighted that they have brought it forward for all sorts of reasons. First but not foremost it shows CCS is capable of listening because there was a bit of an outcry when they did delay G10.
"For UKCloud, we have a host of exciting new products and services and it's great now we have a near-term vehicle to reach public sector buyers with those, but above all it shows that government is committed to G-Cloud, that it's committed to the SMB community and the rapid benefits G-Cloud is bringing government."
Harry Metcalfe, MD of digital design supplier dxw, added: "We have lots of new services we were working on for G-Cloud so we were irritated it was delayed, so this is really great news.
"Frankly I think that speaks quite highly of CCS [that they brought G10 forward]. CCS puts itself out there as an organisation that listens to its suppliers and here they have demonstrated that's really truly the case."
The current G-Cloud 9 framework has 2,856 suppliers, over 90% of which are SMBs, and the arrival of version 10 means even more suppliers will be able to join it.
Industry trade body TechUK's head of public sector, Rob Driver, said: "The announcement of the G-Cloud 10 framework should be welcomed as it allows new innovative providers to work with government, enables new services to be provided and is an opportunity to engage with the wider public sector to make use of the framework."
But challenges remain within the Digital Marketplace
Since its creation in 2012, G-Cloud has seen public sector buyers spend more than 2.8 billion with private sector companies, with nearly half of that going to small and medium businesses.
But this spending data is old, dating from the end of 2017, and this is just one of the issues suppliers still have with G-Cloud, and the Digital Marketplace within which the framework sits.
"With G-Cloud there's no visibility of the tenders and opportunities," said UKCloud's Stewart. "For a very transparent framework one of the areas that could be improved is you have no idea as a supplier if you're on any buyers' lists or in the running for an opportunity."
Only shortlisted suppliers get that insight, making it harder to understand what opportunities are in the pipeline, what competitors you're up against or what buyers are searching for, she said.
"The only way to extrapolate that kind of data is to get the G-Cloud spend data, but ... we have only got data up to the end of 2017. That means it's quite difficult to understand the market."
Another issue Stewart highlighted was the fact that suppliers cannot alter prices on a framework, and are being forced to wait until the next iteration comes along to make revisions. This is an issue for vendors that face increased third-party costs, she said.
"There has to be some consideration of how do you deal with third-party price rises that are out of suppliers' control," she argued. "SMBs are not as well placed to absorb those increases as bigger suppliers."
Unspecified delays to the next versions of both the Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS) framework to draft in digital specialists, and the Cyber Security Services framework, have become a bugbear for dxw's Metcalfe, but he said he's hopeful they won't be delayed for much longer.
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