This short article by Tony Richards of IACS LLP outlines the procurement process for project teams looking to procure from the G-Cloud.
Step 1: Write the high level business objectives to describe what the business wants to do.
Step 2: Divide the business objectives into Segments based on technology – this helps to gather similar services or components into groups that can be treated in the same way, for example: physical infrastructure; end users devices; cloud services (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS); application development, consultancy; etc.
Step 3: Define a procurement strategy for each of the Segments – with this step you can identify the most efficient and relevant procurement vehicles for the Segments. Physical devices or equipment are not in scope of the G-Cloud program and therefore would need to be procured via a different procurement framework, where as cloud based hosting (IaaS – G-Cloud Lot1) or software development for cloud hosted applications (G-Cloud Lot 4) can be procured via the G-Cloud framework.
Procuring G-Cloud Segments
Step 4: Write high level requirements, based on the business needs for each of the Segments, for your initial sweep of G-Cloud - this can feel scarily sparse for those used to writing long and detailed functional and non-functional specs. Although some of the detail is useful further down the line, you don't need it all for your initial search of G-Cloud (and it may hinder rather than help in the early stages).
Tip: Although professional services - such as consultancy - are commoditised on G-Cloud, you will need a much fuller specification to allow for fair appraisal and costing by suppliers. These services are usually advertised at a rate per day, so consider both the day rate and any estimated durations from Suppliers when considering overall cost.
Step 5: Produce a Long List – Using the high level requirements and Lot structure of the G-Cloud Catalogue, produce an initial long list of Service Providers whose service descriptions are approximate matches to your requirements. You may find yourself with the option of either buying the services with one Service Provider (SaaS) or different parts of the service amongst several providers (IaaS + application developer). It's worth considering the benefits of both - splitting services across several suppliers could be cheaper but could increase the load on Service Management, therefore possibly meaning a greater overall cost in terms of time and money.
Step 6: Develop a clear strategy for shortlisting from the G-Cloud Catalogue (this can change depending on what you are procuring) - for example: shortlist the cheapest three; shortlist by those that provide all services require; send an email to the long-list with more detail about your requirements and shortlist by those that match what you're looking for most closely.
Tip: It can be difficult to compare prices between suppliers on G-Cloud. It may feel like you have to choose on the basis of the information on the website. You can make contact with suppliers to de-mystify their prices and it will help you make smarter and more cost-effective choices (continue to follow principles of fairness and openness).
Step 7: Unless you're procuring something simple and you're confident that the pricing and service is clear, like a fixed price deliverable, it is recommend that you seek clarification and relevant information to advise your selection process. Engaging a short listed supplier with questions may be necessary where you feel you do not have enough information from CloudStore and the materials provided by the suppliers and asking questions would ensure a better outcome for your project. Where costs and services are very similar, meeting suppliers will help you gain more of a shared understanding and rapport.
If however the information provided by a supplier is adequate to allow you to add them to a short list then there is no need to ask further questions. Do not create extra work for yourself!
Step 8: Develop Evaluation Criteria - On large procurements you may wish to use selection panels, weighting criteria and more detailed requirements as part of your Evaluation Criteria when meeting shortlisted Service Providers - G-Cloud doesn't completely replace your current procurement processes but can work alongside them. You may send Evaluation Criteria and weighting requirements to suppliers before meeting them, but you are not obliged to; consider whether it will improve the chances of a successful outcome.
Tip: It is suggested to include 'engagement with the process' in your scoring sheet to allow you to discount suppliers that miss deadlines or are poor communicators.
Step 9: Evaluate and select Service Providers – Selection of the preferred supplier should be achieved by scoring short listed suppliers based on either the proposal with the lowest cost or a ‘MEAT’ (most economically advantageous tender) approach. As an example: Where suppliers are marked out of a maximum of score of 100 points with the ‘Cost of Acquisition’ attracting the greatest weighting i.e. up to 50 of the total points available; The remaining points are allocated to other significant areas specific to the requirement in question (e.g. service wrap, approach, functional fit, technical merit etc.). See the G-Cloud website for more information on using MEAT.
The selected service should then be procured via your procurement process. To do this, they form a call off contract with the supplier. The Cabinet Office sometimes use a derivative of the 10-day Alcatel mandatory standstill period as a courtesy to allow suppliers to query and correct if necessary which may give you a better outcome. This is used because most people understand what it is and why it is in place and has the same purpose - but is not part of - the Official Journal of the European Community (OJEU).
Tip: Use the G-Cloud team for help and advice. With their support, you can navigate through a fairly complex procurement in about 8 weeks - one that would've traditionally taken several months.
Information Assurance Consulting Services LLP (IACS LLP) provides industry-focused consultancy and advisory services for public and private sector clients.
Tel: +44(0)845 519 6138