Does anybody remember G-Force? I used to love watching that team back in the 80s on our state of the art, Radio Rentals telly. Battle of the Planets was pretty cool, but not as cool as the new G on the block, G-Cloud 10.
Yes, in the greatest on-off debate since Brexit, word has eked out that G-Cloud version 10.0 is coming to a Digital Marketplace near you, soon! In Spring, so it seems. I was a little surprised, given the information released last year regarding the extension of G-Cloud 9, but this gives new companies the chance to join the 2,500-strong supplier base and those that are already there now have the chance to add new services and update existing ones.
I am a G-Cloud advocate. In my view it has transformed IT procurement in the public sector, and there is good evidence to back this up.
In the 5 years since it’s launch, spend has increased exponentially. From just over £7m in 2012, to £87m the following year, passing the £500m per annum barrier in 2014, it has increased year-on-year as the framework grows and more customers use it. Annual spending on technology services via G-Cloud in 2017 was a fraction over £1bn. That’s a lot of investment, and whilst it isn’t the total sum of government spend on digital and technology services, it has opened up a marketplace that was dominated by large suppliers on large, multi-year deals.
Competition in any marketplace is healthy, and disruptors bring new approaches and ways of doing business. As a relatively new organisation to G-Cloud, Tisski had an 800% increase in revenues from 2016 to 2017 – we received £700k through this route. That’s fantastic, and we are expecting that to increases again this year. But of course, that will only happen if we continue to deliver CRM and ERP solutions that are of high quality and deliver real benefits to our customers.
It is interesting being on the supplier end of G-Cloud and if you happen to be working within government and have a role to play in the procurement process then I do have a few things I would like to ask of you. Please, they are relatively small things, but they would make it much more transparent for us.
1. When you post an opportunity on DOS, please be honest about your requirements. And if you don’t want a certain technology stack then tell suppliers. We don’t want to chase lost causes and waste your time, nor ours.
2. Be realistic about start dates. I have seen some opportunities that have a start date about 10 days after the close date. If you need to shortlist, seek additional information from suppliers, decide who to appoint and sort out the contract and raise a purchase order then you must have the most efficient back-office within all of government! Because surely you wouldn’t have gone to market knowing who you wanted to be the supplier before starting the process, would you?
3. When you have made a decision, please tell the suppliers that bid. The process can be a black hole – we give you an email contact, so please reply to say if we haven’t been successful. We don’t want to keep chasing people through the switchboard or by trawling LinkedIn to find contacts. We won’t pester you if we know we weren’t successful, but it is courteous to tell us. From my experience around half of the bids we have put in haven’t had any response.
4. Please give us feedback. It will help us change what we do, and not just in the application process as it isn’t just about what is written in those 100-word responses. We might provide different services that better meet your needs if we knew. To give you an example, we recently bid for some work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. There were loads of applications – around 40. So, they sent emails to say it would take them longer to review bids. Then the said when they would make a decision. I got an email to say we were unsuccessful with a letter to set out the scoring and offering additional feedback. FCO staff set aside time to give me feedback on what was strong and what was less so. Kudos to FCO for taking the time!! We consider Tisski as part of a wider government team, experts in our field. Treat us like a member of staff and tell us where we need to improve, please.
5. Tell us who the winning bidder was, as we are nosy.
But, don’t think this is a moan about G-Cloud. Far from it. In my time at the Department for Education we used it to find new suppliers, and to obtain more competitive deals from incumbents that were forced to react to this easily-accessible marketplace. We did much of our work through SMEs, which was at times a difficult sell to some of my colleagues. We saw a year-on-year reduction in costs from greater competition, and when there was insufficient competition in the market and the same names kept coming up on the g-Cloud searches then it made us think about the technology choices we had made.
Following my plea for government to improve their responses to suppliers, I can offer some thoughts for those in government procuring through G-Cloud. They might sound simple, but I believe they will help.
• Think about what you are buying and seek external advice – it is OK to speak to suppliers about what you might do, particularly if they are a trusted partner you have worked with before. And it doesn’t mean that you have to have hundreds of conversations. Have a non-commercial conversation and see if what you want is realistic in terms of cost, timescales and benefit –or hold a supplier day and give numerous suppliers the chance to shape your thinking
• Consider the wider package. It’s not just about building new services or applications. What about hosting, licensing, support?
• Get some in-house expertise on technology procurement. At DfE there were several people I could rely on for accurate, impartial advice and they made it so much easier. If you don’t have any at the moment then build the capability over time
• Speak with your government colleagues. There may be existing networks or events you can go to. Don’t be afraid of seeking their views, as they might already have what you are after
• Most importantly, focus on user benefits. Be clear on why you are doing what you are doing and have a commitment to this driving your purchasing decisions.
So, the good folk at Tisski will be brushing up their g-Cloud services for 2018 and introducing some new and exciting offers. If there is anything you feel we need to deliver for you or others within government then please do let us know. It’s good to talk.