The eleventh iteration of the G-Cloud framework is on course to go-live in July 2019, with the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) due to start accepting supplier applications from Monday 25 March.
Government procurement chiefs at CCS confirmed the move in a brief Twitter post earlier this week, while a follow-up post on its website states interested parties will have until 15 May 2019 to submit their applications to be included on the framework.
As per the CCS’s published guidance, this should mean G-Cloud 11 will make its debut on 2 July 2019.
The timing of the launch, however, appears to have taken some suppliers by surprise, with many anticipating that CCS would not start accepting applications until next month, following the postponement of a pre-launch market engagement session with suppliers.
The event was due to take place on the 21 March 2019, but is now pegged to go ahead next month, Computer Weekly understands.
According to several G-Cloud stakeholders, who spoke to Computer Weekly on condition of anonymity, CCS has done very little “pre-market engagement” ahead of G-Cloud 11’s launch, and the general consensus is this could indicate one of two things.
It could mean CCS is planning to make few, if any, enhancement to the framework engagement this time around, and G-Cloud 11 is likely to be very similar in content and scope to the tenth version, which will be retired as soon as its successor goes live.
On the other hand, there is a speculation CCS might be plotting something a little more radical, in light of the pressure it is finding itself under to ramp up its efforts to help more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) secure business through the framework.
As Chris Farthing, managing director of public sector procurement consultancy, Advice Cloud, remarked to Computer Weekly: “We are big supporters of G-Cloud [and]… it has truly been a success with over £4.25bn spend so far [through the framework]. Unfortunately, we have seen a slight drop in SME spend this year, so it will be interesting to see what this latest iteration does to boost SME targets.”
As previously reported by Computer Weekly, figures released by public sector cloud analyst Lindsay Smith recently revealed a marked and steady decline in the percentage of cloud hosting deals being awarded to SMEs during 2018 through both G-Cloud and the Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS) frameworks.
G-Cloud has always been positioned by the powers that be within the Cabinet Office as means of providing SMEs with improved access to government IT deals.
John Glover, sales and marketing director of G-Cloud-listed collaboration software provider Kahootz, who has secured deals with the Ministry of Defence, National Health Service and the Quality Care Commission through the framework to-date, is of the view that little is likely to have changed this time around..
That is not necessarily surprising, given that CCS is likely to be in the thick of its Brexit preparations, and the team overseeing G-Cloud there has recently undergone a few personnel changes.
These include the appointment of Kevin Todd as the commercial agreement lead of the framework, who took on the position eight months ago, following the departure of long-standing G-Cloud champion Rob Macleod.
“My impression is that it’s a timing issue – they just have to get [the framework] done. I wouldn’t expect anything to be different at all, given what’s been happening in the background with Brexit and the staff changes,” Glover told Computer Weekly.
“If they [were planning] radical changes, we would have caught wind of that because we would have been involved as stakeholders.”
That is not to say that future iterations of the framework, that are rolled out once Todd and his team have had more time to bed in, will not be dramatically different though, he added.
“From [the] initial discussions with Kevin Todd I am encouraged that he seems to share our desire to use G-Cloud framework iterations to stimulate innovation and provide a vehicle for change, working with ‘disruptive’ UK SMEs like Kahootz, to challenge the status quo.”