One of the main ambitions of the G-Cloud framework when it was set up in 2012 was to give the entire public sector access to the more innovative, agile and cost effective SMEs, which would provide them with outstanding IT solutions.
As a member of that network we have seen that things have certainly progressed, SME’s are, to an extent, getting more access to the public sector than ever before and the improvements to the framework make it much more of a user friendly experience. However, a little dig under the gloss and one finds that there is still a lot of work to be done to overcome a problem that appears to continue haunting the framework; local government and authorities lack of awareness or unwillingness to use it.
A breakdown of the recently achieved £1bn worth of transactions, that have been taken over the framework since 2012, highlights a contradiction of the recent fanfare of success. The framework continues to be dominated by the major players within public sector IT procurement, as such, the list of top 30 vendors are still very much dominated by huge organisations. Even some of those considered ‘SME’ have surprisingly large turnovers, c. £50m+, which, would put them in the category of other major players. In light of these figures it is easy to see why local government departments continue to depend on the companies they always have, and do not have much time nor interest in G-Cloud.
Not seeing the wood for the trees
SMEs don’t want something for nothing. We are not expecting business to be thrown at our feet by the public sector. Indeed, the nature of the framework itself means it is hugely competitive, which is undeniably positive. There are nearly 2,500 companies listed and it maybe that many SMEs are not taking full advantage of the framework, or perhaps find it hard to be heard above the huge amount of noise that surrounds it.
It might be this ‘not seeing the wood for the trees’ syndrome that is also the challenge for local authorities. However, unless they are regularly informed about the benefits of the framework, the choice and value for money that it gives, then there’s no incentive to change.
It is this lack of awareness that we have found so frustrating. A majority of the large deals we have secured with local authorities have been done outside of the framework. This points to the fact that local government are no more or no less averse to working with SMEs than central government, but just are not using G-Cloud to seek out these opportunities. Without G-Cloud local authorities are missing out of a huge amount of talent and innovation and by sticking to what they have always done are potentially missing out on not only excellent IT, but real cost efficiencies.
Early framework issues
As has been mentioned, the latest iteration of G-Cloud has made huge strides since it was launched in 2012. However, it’s easy to see why many local authorities were put off using the framework in these early days with the amount of confusion, contradiction and frankly awful usability that accompanied the first couple of years.
Alas, unless we are more effective in communicating the changes and benefits to the right local government audiences, then there is no reason for change, and the ease of continuing with existing relationships is the paramount reason for the reliance on large organisations.
We have seen a real willingness, on the whole, from local government to engage and work with SMEs, and those outside of the group of large players that have dominated the public sector for years. It is therefore, something else that is stalling local authorities from engaging with the G-Cloud framework. Certainly previous horror stories of dealing with the framework will have put some off, but we believe that there is a gap in the communication to local government that allows them to see the whole picture. This picture being the true benefits of using G-Cloud, and the thousands of smaller companies out there that can offer the same, or in many cases, better solutions, certainly at a better cost, than the oligopoly that always has, and continues to dominate the market.
SME’s are tax payers too. If we’re not going to take the time and effort to get it working properly, there is an argument for pursuing at all.
Chris Proctor is CEO at Oneserve