Cloud 9: the future of compliant-by-default procurement

7 March 2016

Reform’s paper, Cloud 9: the future of public procurement, is a scholarly and important contribution to the debate about the future of compliant-by-default procurement. G-Cloud 8 will be advertised soon. G-Cloud 9 can be expected before the end of 2016. Cloud 9 (nirvana) may lie ahead.

Society is undergoing a digital revolution, a digital transformation, entering the Second Machine Age. Whatever you call it, change is afoot. Amazon has changed shopping habits. Everyone has a smartphone. Google has just overtaken Apple as the most valuable company. Government procurement is affected and is about to be transformed.

The G-Cloud is a revolutionary procurement framework, currently listing almost 22,000 cloud-based IT goods and services, which can be bought ‘off the shelf’ – thereby avoiding expensive and lengthy traditional procurement processes. Compliant by default, it is accessible through the Digital Marketplace. Invented by a team from the Home Office and developed by Chris Chant and Denise McDonough, it is now the world leader in revenue and functionality according to Andrew Karpie of Spend Matters. Tony Singleton’s Digital Marketplace team have built the world’s leading Work Intermediation Platform, capable of connecting government with an increasing pool of contingent labour. This is a remarkable and not yet fully recognised achievement.

The G-Cloud enables bespoke services to be bought as “catalogue-able” items. Several aspects of the G-Cloud Digital Marketplace design have led to this success enabling public-sector buyers to buy in minutes, not months, from a vast range of suppliers at transparent prices.

  • Legally compliant by default with procurement regulations
  • Transparent prices and transactions
  • Elegant service definitions
  • Frequent supplier admissions
  • Easy contract terms using supplier standard terms

I was privileged to watch the G-Cloud grow from the Cloud Store in 2012 to the Digital Marketplace in 2014, helping recruit many of the suppliers. Seeing SMEs winning 50 per cent of business on a truly level playing field really caught my attention in December 2013. Something truly remarkable was happening. A beautiful thing.

So how can the Crown build on this success? IBM built the PC in a skunk works in Florida. Apple built the Mac in a separate skunk works. Xerox fumbled the future and did not divisionalise. The Xerox computer was left with their copier business. It is axiomatic in technology business strategy that a disruptive organisation needs to be separate from the legacy incumbent organisation. Thus the G-Cloud Digital Marketplace which has the potential to disrupt procurement should be placed outside the Crown Commercial Service. The use of the term Crown Marketplace obscures whether the key features of the G-Cloud are central to “Crown Marketplace”. G-Cloud is the model. Doing pre-market engagement online, publishing legacy style OJEUs and purchase to pay are peripheral to realising the potential of the G-Cloud model.

Growing the G-Cloud model (whatever it ends up being called) still depends on the five things I blogged about in December 2013, namely:

1. Build the customer base: identify and address key barriers to take-up, to encourage more public-sector customers to use it. We have barely scratched the surface.
2. Build the product catalogue: make sure the products they want to buy are listed in the catalogue.
3. Build the supplier base: make sure that the most competitive and innovative suppliers are listed in each product category ensuring category range authority
4. Debug the processes: make continuous improvements to processes as problems emerge. Security accreditation is a current bottleneck that needs to be improved.
5. Refine the web experience: continuously improve the web site.

That is the route to Cloud 9.

Stephen Allott was the Crown Representative for Small and Medium Enterprises between 2011 and 2015 and is Chairman, Pebble {Code}



Gordon Mackintosh

14 October, 2016

I can't agree with these assertions at all. The only experience as a supplier that we have with G-Cloud is that the framework seems to provide a means for the public sector to circumvent openness and transparency, which open tendering actually provides. We've seen more than one 'dodgy' award which involves appointing suppliers with whom the relevant authority has a rather too cosy relationship. If one tries to request information in relation to the award process through G-Cloud, it seems that the Civil Service are at best disinterested bystanders. The only recourse to achieve fairness is to resort to costly legal action. It really is not a good process.

Cloud 9: the future of compliant-by-default pro...

11 March, 2016

[…] How digital services could transform public procurement  […]


08 March, 2016

It is a pity to see the efforts of Crown Commercial Service in creating G-Cloud whitewashed over again.