A cohort of IT vendors and public sector customers have called upon the government to make multiple improvements to the G-Cloud platform, and warned that its current setup opens it up to the risk of a legal challenge.
An open letter headed up by cloud services firm Skyscape was forthcoming in its support of the platform, but made suggestions in a bid to limit further confusion and a lack of understanding among buyers and vendors.
Signed by 14 Skyscape partners – including representatives from defence contractor Lockheed Martin, Westminster City Council and cloud collaboration company Huddle – the letter to the Government Digital Service (GDS) chief operating officer Tony Singleton outlined several areas that they believe should be improved.
The letter accuses G-Cloud's online Cloud store of being stocked full of services which are not, by definition, part of a cloud service.
"It is doubtful that all or even many of the Lot 1, 2, 3 services available meet the NIST [US National Institute of Standards and Technology] definition for Cloud Services – or that they demonstrate the essential characteristics required by the G-Cloud 4 procurement, namely truly on-demand, measured service," it said.
The group suggests the CloudStore – which now contains 13,000 services from 1,183 suppliers – should be cleaned up, and that non-qualifying services are removed as soon as possible.
A large portion of the letter is also devoted to areas in which both customers and vendors have failed to understand aspects of the highly complex G-Cloud procurement process.
"The level of understanding around how to buy from the CloudStore remains variable," the letter states.
This, it says, increases the risk of a legal challenge from firms that lose sales to suppliers on G-Cloud: "A successful challenge could potentially damage the integrity of the initiative, and all that it promises to deliver to the UK public sector," it said.
It recommends that a better system is put in place in order to notify GDS of any firms deviating from the information laid out in the G-Cloud buying guide.
The signatories also believe that G-Cloud's current maximum two-year contract term is too short and is discouraging buyers from conducting business through G-Cloud. They suggest an increase in the maximum contract length of a G-Cloud procured service to three years, in order to increase buyer confidence.
The letter adds that there is a "high level of confusion" as to how an updated version of the Government Security Classifications Policy (GPMS) will fit into the latest version of G-Cloud – version five – both of which are due in April. The letter warns that "clear guidance is needed very soon" to prevent buyers from overspending on unnecessary security measures.
The letter also pushes for more transparency among buyers, with suppliers receiving better forewarning that their services may be considered by a public sector buyer. Currently, it is claimed, vendors often receive no warning that they have been longlisted for a contract, and are not told if they ultimately fail to make the shortlist. As a result, they are unable to improve their services to ensure they are considered more favourably in the future.
Simon Hansford, CTO of Skyscape, said the group was looking to work closely with GDS in order to further improve G-Cloud.
"The G-Cloud framework has been a tremendous success and continues to change the market for the better – reducing costs while increasing innovation, agility and choice," he said.
"In sharing the collective experience of Skyscape, our partners and other stakeholders, our aim is to engage with GDS moving forward to help continually improve future frameworks and to help transform government procurement."
The Cabinet Office said it welcomed the feedback, and maintained that "much remains to be done to embed G-Cloud so that organisations across the public sector – and ultimately the taxpayer – benefit from access to the most innovative, cost-effective solutions offered by the widest range of suppliers.
"We are always looking for feedback from suppliers and customers, both positive and negative, and we continue to make improvements to G-Cloud and CloudStore with each new iteration of the framework."
Total spend on G-Cloud has topped £78m in three years, with GDS now pushing to increase awareness of the service among local government bodies, which are failing to make use of it.
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