Chris Chant on the G-Cloud and the Future of Government IT

Chris Chant on the G-Cloud and the Future of Government IT

As a follow-up to the previous post on the G-Cloud and SMEs, I’ve created a summary of a talk Chris Chant gave last October on the G-Cloud and the future of Government IT. It’s not an exact transcription, but it accurately conveys the points put forward in his speech at the Institute of London. If you would like to hear it in full a link has been provided at the bottom of the post.


  • There’s been a lot of good work done in Government IT in the past, but some of that work has been done on the wrong projects. IT is a utility – like electricity – so it has to be available at all times, and is critical for Government to function.
  • But in the past the cost of Government IT has been outrageously expensive.
  • It has been very slow, of poor quality, and rarely user-centric.
  • There have been a number of unacceptable facets about Government IT.
  • It’s unacceptable not to know the true entry and true exit cost of any project – and that includes business de-entanglement, which is critical.
  • We can’t predict the future of IT beyond 12 months – who would have been able to predict the impact the iPad has made on the IT market a few years ago? It’s complete nonsense to say we can accurately foretell what will be required in the future beyond the short-term present.
  • Why should Government pay for infrastructure – surely IT suppliers should pay for it?
  • It’s unacceptable not to know who works on the client side in Government IT.
  • It’s unacceptable that Government doesn’t know what these people do.
  • It’s unacceptable not to know what systems Government owns, what they cost, and how much they are used.
  • It’s unacceptable not to know when users give up on an online service.
  • It’s unacceptable to send paper reminders through the post about using an online service.
  • Employees within Government should be able to work from any device.
  • It’s unacceptable to pay about £3500 a year for desktop service.
  • It’s unacceptable for a pc to take 10 minutes to start up and 10 minutes to shut down.
  • Staff should have full use of Twitter and YouTube, and other social media if it helps their work; their use of the internet should not be restricted, because we can’t fully define when and how the internet will be required.
  • Call centre staff should be able to access the same service they are supporting; they shouldn’t be shut out of it.
  • 80% of Government IT is controlled by 5 organisations, and some of their strategy is outsourced.
  • To change 1 line of code in 1 application can cost up to £50,000. That is unacceptable.
  • It can take 12 weeks to get 1 server commissioned. That is unacceptable.
  • Not to engage with the most agile and forward-thinking suppliers in the SME markets – who are not allied with the 5 major IT suppliers – is unacceptable.

How does the G-Cloud fit into this scenario?

  • The G-Cloud represents a fundamental alteration in the way in which the Government does technology – and this goes beyond IT alone. It’s a complete change in approach and will profoundly affect how the Government delivers its services.
  • Cloud will be cheaper.
  • The Government needs clear and understandable costs. The Government doesn’t have that anywhere in IT. The difference in cost is huge.
  • Cloud solutions that have already been secured and accredited will almost always be cheaper.
  • The products will be pre-procured and accredited by the supplier.
  • Government needs to know the cost of the product, and the cost of exiting from that product.
  • Long term demand and aggregated contracts are not valuable.
  • Contracts need to be a year in length, or less.
  • It’s a key method for ensuring quality of product and service delivery. If contracts aren’t restricted to a year and run on for multiple years, there is no incentive for better performance.
  • The new 1 year contract structure will guarantee improved service, and will drive costs down. Suppliers are incentivised to provide good quality products and service over the course of the contract, because if they don’t it can end fairly quickly.
  • Comparison – think of the cost of digital streaming – the cost used to be excessive but as the market has matured the cost has reduced (eg in the case of the BBC); the cost has gone down because users can leave the service at any time, so suppliers is constrained to give as good a service as they can.
  • The Cloud will accurately define the cost of products – the cost of entry and exit, and how to use the product and how to exit from it. It will provide a review from other users, and that will totally transform what then happens. If other public sector users state they have used that product effectively and to their satisfaction, that will weigh extremely powerfully with other users.
  • Government IT staff will become skilled integrators.
  • Staff will be able to set up services in minutes instead of years.
  • They have Foundation Delivery Partners: The Government looks to buy products, the Government Procurement Service works with CESG to handle the security, and product by product together they decide what needs to be done. They then do the preparatory work so that buyers don’t have to do the same work over again. There will be no duplication of effort – certainly not on any significant scale, as happens today.
  • Over time there will be lots of products chosen for different types of circumstances. The Senior Risk Owner will only have to fine tune a product for the last bit of use in their department. They wont have to redo the work of the GPS or CESG.
  • The next stage – IL3 email and collaboration. Entire departments will be picking them up.
  • Need to deliver real stuff people can demonstrate to others – which they’ve done with the Government Digital Service, off corporate systems onto IL1 and 0, and IL3 in some. They have examples of projects that show savings of 82%. There are huge amounts of money involved. And – the computers don’t take 10 minutes to start up and 10 minutes to shut down.
  • They don’t have all the answers. But people now know how great IT is done. Google and Amazon, for example, deliver new services, a button appears on the screen, and they just work. Need to learn as go along. The first expression of the policy is get SMEs working directly with Government. This wont be the final solution. They’ll then add new suppliers on a month by month basis.

Bear in mind that it is now March 2012 and 4 months have passed since this speech was made. To put it into context please see the other articles on the G-Cloud and CloudStore that have recently been published, such as CloudStore and SMEs and CloudStore launched as part of the GCloud Framework.

Listen to Chris Chant talking about the G-Cloud on the Government Digital Service’s website: