Kevin Linsell 09 June 2015

Buying with G-Cloud

Now running its sixth version and accounting for technology sales of £559m to March 2015, G-Cloud and its digital marketplace are helping the public sector to find IT suppliers with products and services aligned to their specific needs.

With nearly half of all sales going to SMEs, it’s also building a broader public sector market for the tech industry as a whole. It’s an evolving system, which remains the topic of some pretty strong debate, and for many, still represents a considerable challenge to use effectively.

For public sector digital marketplace users, the following seven steps should make the G-Cloud procurement process more efficient and effective.

1. Plan carefully before you start: The range of products and services available on the G-Cloud framework is very broad – in the region of 20,000 – so it really helps to plan your requirements with as much precision as possible in advance. Bear in mind the digital marketplace will ask about your requirements right at the start of the search process, so preparation can really save time.

2. Seek out good advice: If there are gaps in your knowledge or you don’t have enough detail, do some research and take advice. Technical details are particularly important when specifying your requirements through the marketplace, so make sure that level of guidance is available to you. If you can apply technical knowledge and experience it will improve your chances of success.

3. Consider results beyond page one: A search through the digital marketplace can offer you a lot of options. A search for ‘managed security’, for example returns 977 results – ‘Software as a Service’ delivers over 1,200. But bear in mind that the first few results returned from a digital marketplace search don’t necessarily mean they are the most relevant for your needs, unlike the major search engines, so look beyond page one of any search results.

4. Assess the abilities of potential product or service providers: You can use two core evaluation models – Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) or lowest price – and filter your search accordingly. Using a ‘per workload/application’ score can help qualify in or out providers who can meet your needs. Combine this assessment with true service costs and the business impact of the payment schedule.

5. Create shortlists: Use your search results and assessment methods as a starting point and create a shortlist of potential providers who you can talk to. Don’t forget to ask potential suppliers for reference sites and customer feedback.

6. G-Cloud empowers you with contract flexibility. Use it: – One of the fundamental ideas behind G-Cloud is that it gives public sector organisations the leverage of short term contracts, creating real performance based engagements. This is a marked contrast to the previous system where locked-in, multi-year deals with system integrators, for example, were the norm. These shorter term deals mean any suppliers you engage via G-Cloud need to live up to agreed Service Level Agreements (SLAs) or risk having their contract terminated. This means you also need to familiarise yourself with the concept of ‘offboarding’ a supplier if things don’t work out, so consider issues around continuity and supplier switching.

7. Keep an eye on the future: Clearly, public sector organisations have to be especially mindful of key milestones and dates such as the end of the tax year, spending reviews and elections. These events can potentially signal a change in budget, so procurement plans should take this into account as much as possible.

In its most recent update, the government reported total G-Cloud sales of over £500m to date, and on the face of it, the recent General Election result indicates that the system will remain in place for the foreseeable future. For public sector organisations looking to improve their procurement efficiency, therefore, learning to get the most out of G-Cloud remains an important consideration.

Kevin Linsell is director of strategy and architecture at Adapt

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