Since it’s full launch in October 2012, the G-Cloud framework has far from been a rip-roaring success. The brief for the G-Cloud gave it 3 major goals, all of which were a challenge in themselves. Primarily, the G-Cloud framework was designed to open the eyes of the public sector to the functional and cost benefits of cloud computing, whilst at the same time making it easier for public departments to find exactly what they needed without having to put out a full tender or competition. As a by product of this it was hoped that government (both national and local) would use the framework to buy from SMBs, and give a much needed boost in revenue to hundreds of companies up and down Britain.
So in short, the G-Cloud was designed to revolutionise the IT departments of the UK government, make the procurement of new technology more efficient and give a boost to the UK technology sector during a tough time for all businesses. It’s easy to see how any initiative, government led or not, would struggle to achieve any one of those goals, never mind all three. Having said that, the G-Cloud is still relatively new so it can’t be written off just yet.
The inspiration for the G-Cloud was to improve the speed at which new services could be procured, and existing services improved upon. There was also a feeling among critics that the typical providers from big business were expensive and didn’t always provide systems specifically designed for the job. This resulted in bad value for money as councils and government departments ended up paying a lot for something not particularly well suited to the job.
Despite all of this good intention, the G-Cloud has been slow to pick up momentum. Many suppliers who have made it on to the three incarnations are yet to earn a penny from doing so, and some, despite being on the framework, are waiting to be awarded with the pan-government accreditation necessary to do business on the G-Cloud. This is being put down to a combination of the number of applicants, as well as many suppliers underestimating the standards required. Despite this, the Cabinet Office claims three-quarters of all suppliers on the G-Cloud are SMBs.
Graeme Swan, of Ernst & Young, gave his thoughts on the G-Cloud in an interview with V3 magazine. He praises the cabinet office for their promotion and leadership of the G-Cloud initiative, but criticised the public sector, claiming “no one” uses it because “government departments don’t understand how to buy” from it, nor do they know how to integrate new services with their existing setup, citing a lack of “service-oriented-architecture” that would allow departments to pick and choose services without having to completely overhaul their infrastructure.
The latter point is particularly disappointing, as that is one of the main benefits of cloud computing; the ability to cherry pick features but without the painful integration procedure. However, cloud computing is very much on the rise in general, and so it can only be a matter of time until the public sector embraces it. It remains to be seen whether this will this be as a result of the G-Cloud, or just a reflection of normal industry practices.