CloudStore and SMEs
Chris Chant, the Director of the Government Cloud Programme, has written an article on the G-Cloud Blog that’s very interesting – not only to IT suppliers, but to SMEs as a whole – because it indicates the change in attitude this administration has towards doing business with smaller companies.
For those who are unaware, CloudStore is the software component of the G-Cloud: it’s the apps repository, and it provides access to applications which are licensed on a 12 month basis from pre-qualified suppliers. It really is at the cutting edge of technology, and even though it’s met with some unfavourable criticism, it’s also met with a lot of plaudits as well. Here’s a paragraph that jumps out at the reader:
The way I see it is that for the last two decades government has built a huge wall around its services so ensuring that only the largest companies could compete for and provide its IT services. We often didn’t get the services that we expected as a result of that and we certainly didn’t get the value. Suppliers operating within the oligopoly would charge the earth for their custom services and their “revenue protection officers” would ensure that the potential cost of service credits was, anyway, factored into the bid. If, by some miracle, the service worked as designed then that reserve went straight to profit. That’s the old, #unacceptable, way of of doing things.
The G-Cloud – theoretically at least – has the potential to remove a lot of the technical problems that plagued myriad Government IT programmes for decades, but it is clearly also shaking up the way the Government sees suppliers, and the way services can be delivered. The barbed comments of the Director on the performance of some of the giant IT companies in the past is both revolutionary and amusing at the same time – an intimate knowledge of the ridiculous failings the ‘Connecting for Health’ Programme possessed are enough to make anyone laugh in despair. The G-Cloud, and CloudStore, are by their nature much more controllable, and the contracts with their diversity of suppliers reflect that. Technology may at last have caught up with aspirations of Government. Read the next two paragraphs:
With G-Cloud, several things are happening. First we are making it easy for the public sector to buy a vast range of services – and so easy that they can try things out at nominal cost before taking it on for a whole organisation. Second, we are encouraging an “accredit once, use everywhere” approach – that means that the first customer of a service steers their supplier through accreditation and then the rest of government can adopt that service without needing to carry out further checks; the aim there is to massively reduce the cost to a supplier of meeting government security requirements. Third, we have complete transparency – suppliers display what they have available in the cloudstore and customers will be able to compare services (for the first time) as well as (coming soon) rate them. Fourthly, we are encouraging short contracts with complete portability – if it doesn’t work out, the customer can move to a different supplier.
We know that smaller suppliers can bring new ideas to market fast, arguably our most successful online service has been designed built and delivered by an SME for the last 10 years. We know that the more opportunities we make available to them, the more that they will raise their game and respond. As a result, some small suppliers hopefully will blossom and might become much bigger. But we aim to keep everyone moving fast through the transparency and competition that the cloudstore creates. It’s still early days and we have a lot to do – let the armchair pundits carry on demonstrating the sort of institutional arrogance so many of us have witnessed over the last twenty years. See what happened to Kodak when they did that.
What a difference from the past! The future has broken the monopolistic supply chain, and created real opportunities for small businesses as well.
Some of the comments on the blog are also well worth reading, for suppliers working in the IT sector. The next version of the Framework will be opened in April, by the way, so the door hasn’t been closed if you’ve not joined it yet.
Stand (Up) And Deliver – Can SMEs Handle It: