Earlier this month, the plug was pulled on the G-Cloud CloudStore, the portal used by the UK public sector to source and procure cloud-based software and services.
The switchover had been on the cards since at least January 2014, when the Crown Commercial Service invited tenders for a replacement to the CloudStore. Three reasons were given for the proposed change:
The current CloudStore was not robust enough to cope with the predicted increase in traffic and usage
The platform was nearing capacity and design limits
The G-Cloud team intended to extend the feature set and number of frameworks covered by the CloudStore – something that may not have been possible without an upgraded codebase.
In a nutshell, the CloudStore was fast becoming a victim of its own success. By July 2014 cumulative sales figures broke through the £200m barrier and hit £270m by the end of September. That was more than twice the £120m sales predicted for 2014/15 only two years ago.
So while it’s clear the CloudStore’s infrastructure needed a major upgrade, what changes will suppliers and users now of the new Digital Marketplace experience? Admittedly, it has a cleaner interface and is easier to navigate, but there are two significant differences that could have a positive or negative impact on its future. These are:
1) More choice vs security concerns
Perhaps the most striking change is that suppliers no longer need to obtain Pan Government Accreditation for their software – independent verification that their solutions meet adequate security standards.
While this sounds like a step backwards, the aim is to make it easier for SMEs to offer their software via the new Digital Marketplace, thereby providing more choice. While that is likely to happen, the question remains whether public sector organisations will trust these new products enough to consider buying them.
Early signs aren’t favourable. Gartner, noting that the burden of assessing suppliers now passes from the Digital Marketplace to buyers, recommends that public sector buyers needing an accredited solution choose one that is already PGA compliant. At Kahootz, we’re certainly glad to hold PGA accreditation during this period of switchover to the Digital Marketplace – we know from experience it reassures customers and speeds up their procurement decisions.
2) CloudStore and Digital Services Framework unite
In line with the government drive to rationalise online services, the new Digital Marketplace won’t only replace the CloudStore, but will also soon integrate it with the Digital Services Framework – the place where the wider public sector can commission suppliers to work in an agile way on digital projects.
According to Tony Singleton, the G-Cloud and digital commercial programme director, this will create a single place to go for cloud-based software, infrastructure, platforms, and the people and teams needed to help design and build digital services on a per-project or phase basis.
However, Louise T Dunne, MD at Auriga Consulting, is worried. She believes that creating a one-stop shop in this way jeopardising the gains SMEs have made via the CloudStore, allowing bigger software companies to dominate once again. The jury’s still out on this, but if it comes to pass then, ironically, public sector buyers will find they have less choice as a result.
At Kahootz, we’ve been passionate supporters of the CloudStore since the outset, and we sincerely hope that the new Digital Marketplace builds on that success. However, we do feel that buyers need some form of independent accreditation that proves the cloud services they buy are secure enough for use, and that the government continues to support SMEs as they develop innovative solutions for public sector working.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. One things for certain – if the government gets it right, the new portal will grow its revenue even faster than its predecessor.