Earlier this month, central government released the first iteration of the G-Cloud Framework. It is being wildly discussed on the partner networks, with lots of cloud providers planning to bid. Indeed, according to a Linked in post by Mark Craddock, it attracted something like 80 suppliers on the first day.
This is hardly a surprise. Despite its short duration, this is the first opportunity for SMEs and disruptive suppliers (Google, AWS, Salesforce and many others) to sell to the government directly (or at least be part of the same crowd as traditional oligopolies). We have certainly been waiting for it for ages, and despite its duration, hope to use it lots.
This framework has already save a public sector organisation money. We are doing some cloud piloting at a large county council. Earlier in the year, they were planning to launch their own custom framework procurement in order to be able to buy the apps / services off the cloud. Now they don’t have to. The cost of getting a framework set up is 150K+, so there is a saving right there. I imagine they are not the last.
There are a couple of small niggles though. I suspect that LOT4 (Other Services) of the framework will have 90% of respondents in it, as it will catch now only the consultants and deployment houses, but also resellers. It would be good to separate “consulting” from technology services such as deployment, development or Cloud brokerage. From our perspective, we will be bidding on several lots, bringing SaaS (our own products + several partners that will not bid themselves), as well as a number of offerings in Lot 4. Indeed, it would be better if roles for resellers / brokers could be better defined at the start, as there are differing opinions about how to handle the current situation amongst larger cloud vendors.
I also have reservations about using the somewhat wide NIST definitions, or at least I hope that they will be narrowed. There is little to stop “fake” and rebranded cloud offerings to join the lots. Specifying modular pricing, or minimum / maximum contract commitment would be great. In fact, I had a conversation recently with one of the major vendors who complained that they cannot differentiate themselves enough, as a minimum contract length under the framework is 1 month, where as they could offer 1 hour… It would help to sort “new” utility and client centric models to rise head and shoulders above the traditional lock-in (contract and tech) model.
Having said the above, even in its current guise, this framework is fantastic! I can really see how it will evolve and grow over time, and how it can, if used properly, start to “de-departmentalise” government and bring value to citizens. Ultimately, the test will of course be the amount of business going through it, however I know that several of our clients are already planning to use it. No doubt this first iteration will have its challenges – but as, one of my recent tweets said (paraphrasing one of our major partner Public Sector business development managers) – It will only work for those progressive public sector teams, who have already decided to innovate. The ones that still need convincing, will find plenty of excuses to wait..