We are about to enter the fourth iteration of the UK Government's innovative G-Cloud framework in under two years. As someone who has personally taken part in all four submissions, I thought it would be worthwhile to comment on whether the process is getting any better.
The Submission Process
To manage data capture, the UK G-Cloud team - utilising their GDS (Government Digital Service) resources - have created an online facility that allows prospective G-Cloud suppliers to upload their Service Descriptions and answer detailed submission questions. The data captured here is used by CloudStore buyers to filter and compare G-Cloud catalogue services. This new facility has made the process far quicker and easier than the original method of filling in and uploading spreadsheets, which was slow and error prone because of the lack of data validation.
The new online form has also made it a lot easier for existing G-Cloud suppliers to migrate services from G-Cloud iii to G-Cloud iv. This streamlined process is an absolute necessity given the frequency (every 6 months) and relatively short-term nature of each G-Cloud framework (1 year).
Quality vs Quantity?
With 7000+ services and 800+ suppliers, the G-Cloud is already breaking new ground by providing wider choice and more competition to public sector buyers. With the need to innovate and recruit new, less traditional, ICT suppliers to the public sector, there was always going to be an issue regarding quality over quantity.
One of my concerns regarding quality on previous iterations of the G-Cloud was how certain suppliers were paying lip-service to the requirement for total openness with regard to pricing and service descriptions (see previous blog). In some situations, even though full descriptions were mandated as part of a tender submissions, the pricing information provided was only a single indicative 'common configuration' price. This was not only unfair to suppliers that had fully disclosed their prices, it also broke the terms of the framework agreement as G-Cloud customers are only allowed to purchase a service at the price shown on the CloudStore.
I'm really pleased that the G-Cloud team have addressed this issue head-on as they required all Giv submissions to be accompanied with a separate pricing document. This document called for the commoditisation of all services offered, and all pricing to be clear, transparent and evidenced along with all volume discounts or sector-specific pricing to be clearly detailed. The accompanying guidance notes state that instances of POA, negotiated price offerings or special one-off discounts are strictly prohibited.
I really welcome this enhancement to the submission process. It will certainly make it a lot easier for me to assess how Kahootz stacks up against our competition on the G-Cloud, which I do on a regular basis. I am not sure how those companies that until now have been using differential pricing will cope. How, for example, will they explain the resulting price changes (up and down) to their existing clients and shareholders?
Iterate to Innovate
G-Cloud framework iterations are now advertised approximately every 6 months and they only last for 12 months. Unlike traditional public sector procurement frameworks that could last 5+ years, this G-Cloud collaborative procurement innovation allows new cloud service providers that may have missed an earlier round to become G-Cloud suppliers without waiting too long.
For G-Cloud stalwarts like Kahootz, it provides the opportunity for us to reshape and refine our CloudStore propositions to ensure they best showcase our service offerings and remain price competitive. For Giv we took the opportunity to revamp both our Service Description and Pricing Documents, based on the many discussions we have had with existing and prospective G-Cloud clients. To be clear, such discussions with prospects isn't negotiation, it's market research to ensure we continue to offer a uniform, fit-for-purpose and commoditised service across the public sector.
Coming Soon to a CloudStore near you!
Based on the feedback and business needs of several large public sector prospects, we decided to include a full description of Kahootz Enterprise in our Service Description. Although Kahootz Enterprise has been outlined on our web site for over a year, we could not actually sell it via the G-Cloud as we had not properly described or commoditised it in our service offering. With Giv that is no longer the case.
In preparation for our updated submission I also made a full competitive analysis to ensure, as a leading cloud collaboration provider, that we continue to offer both affordability and great value for money to our public sector clients.
Room for Improvement?
As an innovation that's fundamentally changing the way the public sector procure and use ICT, it was accepted by forward thinkers that the early iterations of the framework agreement, CloudStore and submission process would not be perfect and would need refinement. Likewise, it was also recognised that both the buyer and supplier communities would need to adapt to this radically new way of procuring ICT. The frequent iterations and small G-Cloud contract lifespans are really helping to facilitate rapid evolution on all sides as we continue to learn together.
I am disappointed that in this era of digital inclusion GDS and the G-Cloud team are still not asking CloudStore SaaS suppliers to specify their level of conformance to web accessibility standards. This is an omission given that traditionally web accessibility has been a mandatory requirement in most public sector procurements. With the power to influence over 800 suppliers, you would have thought that GDS would include this legal and best-practice requirement.
Oh well, we always have the Gv iteration to resolve such issues!