Racking up sales of £1bn in less than four years is pretty good going by most people's standards. And that is exactly what the government's Digital Marketplace - home of G-Cloud and the Digital Services framework - has managed to do.
At the recent government digital conference Sprint, officials were keen to talk up the successes of the framework duo, boasting that more than half (53 per cent) of total G-Cloud sales to date have gone to SMEs - which was a key aim when the framework launched in 2012.
Although the government publishes all the G-Cloud sales data monthly in spreadsheet form, it only crunches the numbers to reveal certain statistics - cumulative sales total, sales by customer type and supplier size, and spend from each of the four framework lots.
To mark the Digital Marketplace achieving its £1bn milestone, and on the eve of G-Cloud's fourth birthday, CRN has delved into all the framework's sales figures to date in a bid to provide a comprehensive analysis of the framework so far (turn over to page 13 for full details).
Smashing the £1bn barrier in cumulative sales was celebrated as a significant achievement when the figures were announced, with key officials - such as G-Cloud boss Tony Singleton and minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock - taking to Twitter to talk up the achievement.
But according to analyst TechMarketView's public sector-focused research director Georgina O'Toole, the impressive milestone may not be as exciting as it seems on the surface.
"It's a nice number to bandy around, isn't it? But if you keep adding on numbers it is going to get to a billion eventually," she said. "I don't think it has taken off in the way the Cabinet Office would have liked at this stage. I think they would have expected the increase year on year to have gone up a bit more, considering the amount of effort they have put in trying to market G-Cloud more widely to the public sector."
G-Cloud launched in March 2012 and by the end of the year had racked up sales of £6.6m. By the end of 2013, that figure had jumped a massive 1,229 per cent to £87.9m - although the growth figure is skewed slightly in that 2012's figure is for just 10 months, while 2013's was for a full calendar year. By 2014, year-on-year growth slowed to 301 per cent, seeing sales jump to £352.2m, and by the end of last year, sales grew just 46 per cent annually to £512.9m.
G-Cloud is the larger of two frameworks which sit in the Digital Marketplace, the other being the Digital Services framework. The latter is currently in the midst of a significant makeover following a backlash from suppliers over a range of issues, and will be renamed Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS). O'Toole said that as the scope of the soon-to-be-launched DOS changes, this might mean sales through G-cloud slow down even more.
But G-Cloud-accredited supplier Kahootz's sales and marketing manager John Glover completely disagreed and said that the future of G-Cloud is bright.
"The growth of the G-Cloud was always constrained by the restrictions of existing public ICT contracts with incumbent outsourced suppliers, so the past three years have very much been a transition period as the cloud-first policy across Whitehall got under way," he said.
"With many of those legacy public sector ICT frameworks coming to an end in the next 12 months, we expect to see dramatic growth in sales via the G-Cloud framework."
Sharing the wealth
According to CRN's analysis of G-Cloud's sales to date, although 653 suppliers have made a sale through the framework, the bulk of sales go through a tiny number.
CRN found that half of the sales through G-Cloud to date went through just 17 suppliers - that is just four per cent of the total 653-strong line-up of suppliers that have made a sale. Although on current iterations G-Cloud 6 and G-Cloud 7 alone, there are more than 2,500 partners accredited, meaning most suppliers are yet to have made a sale through the framework.
Mike Kelly, chief executive of G-Cloud supplier DataCentred, said that for SME suppliers, even a small deal can be significant.
"G-Cloud probably has further to go in terms of wider involvement, but some smaller suppliers will be benefitting even if their volumes remain small," he said. "It is access at this stage that counts as it gives smaller suppliers a chance to get noticed."
The bulk of G-Cloud sales have been with central government departments; with local authorities and the wider public sector accounting for just a quarter of sales so far.
But TechMarketView's O'Toole argued that spreading G-Cloud out to the masses is not necessarily the right thing for the government to expend too much energy on.
"I think we should question whether or not we should be encouraging this," she said.
"I think a lot of these organisations in the wider public sector have looked at the G-Cloud and have determined it is not necessarily the right route for them. I know there are still people in local authorities who don't know what G-Cloud is, but those at the coalface will know. They have clearly determined it is not right for them, so we should step back and say ‘why is it not right for them?' and ‘does it matter that it is not right for them?'."
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