G-Cloud suppliers have raised concerns that the Government Digital Service (GDS) has not spent long enough on the so-called discovery process for the framework's ninth iteration, with one G-Cloud watcher describing it as "less a voyage of discovery and more like a day trip to Calais".
G-Cloud was set up in 2012 and is currently on its eighth iteration. GDS boss Warren Smith told CRN in May that G-Cloud is being "fundamentally revisited", after announcing that a discovery process was due to happen. The process consisted of determining users' needs and how services meet them, as well as analysing current performance. The discovery process ran from July to September.
Following this, GDS published a blog outlining its findings, claiming that users want better guidance on where to get more info about the framework; that buyers find it hard to find the products or services they want; services and products are not listed in a way that is easy to find; and that evaluating bids is hard, among other points.
However, it is not the outcomes of the discovery process some suppliers are concerned about, but rather the speed at which it was conducted.
Chris Proctor, CEO of G-Cloud supplier Oneserve, said although the review is welcome, he fears it has not be conducted thoroughly enough.
"We were slightly buoyed by Warren Smith's comments about root-and-branch analysis of G-Cloud and helping it achieve its objectives. There were a couple of concerns in there: we've heard things like this before; how deep is this going to be? How wide is it going to be? Trying to understand the objectives of G-Cloud - it is almost impossible to discern what those are," he said.
"Two or three weeks ago we had an email saying 'good news, G-Cloud 9 is going to start opening up in a few weeks'. We thought that doesn't quite feel right. A good discovery process is a long and detailed thing and it's like a product. With a product, you send guys out into the field and see what the use cases are, and what works and doesn't work. It's a detailed and complex process. You need to do it right, and if you don't, what you get will be fundamentally wrong. When we were told [G-Cloud 9] is coming out soon, we thought that was very quick. We saw the blog saying what they've learnt. We looked through it and thought that doesn't quite feel like the answers we were expecting.
"Why use 10 words when 328 will do? There's a lot of that. It's additional bureaucracy."
"The big caveat is we've not seen it yet and it could just be poor communication. And that wouldn't surprise me. But we talk to peers and a lot of people have said the same thing - they are very nervous and have heard very little about it. There's an underlying nervousness and people are now saying 'if you're going to go out and say you're doing a root and branch, it needs to be root and branch'. What we've seen so far in terms of insights, it doesn't look like that has necessarily been done."
Mark Elkins, director at IT consultant New View Markets, agreed and said: "A voyage of discovery - it's more like a day trip to Calais in comparison.
"It's not really sufficient time to take on board all the views. A reasonable timeframe does need to take place to get G-Cloud 9 right. It would be interesting to get a comment from the GDS about which areas of government were consulted. They've got local government who have hardly used G-Cloud - how many people in local government have they gone to see?"
In a statement, the Cabinet Office said: "The discovery phase for G-Cloud 9 ran from July to September, which is in line with government guidelines. We are now exploring answers to what we learned during the discovery and will continue to conduct user research to improve the user journey further."
Sales through the framework have well exceeded £1bn since G-Cloud's establishment in 2012. But over that time period, it has come under considerable criticism from suppliers - some claim the application process is too long and complex, and others claim that local government is not getting in on the framework.
Such gripes remain alive and well with some suppliers, despite attempts made by GDS to improve things.
Kelvin Kirby, CEO of Technology Associates, which is on G-Cloud, said the application process is far from simple.
"The application process is only open for a very tight window of time," he said. "I don't know why that is and I don't see any logic to it. I would have thought it would have been more sensible to spread it out over time. But we're on G-Cloud and we're creating more visibility and that's good.
"The application process itself is a bit tedious . It is not intuitive and there is a lot of documentation to go behind it. It is a typical government application. Why use 10 words when 328 will do? There's a lot of that. It's additional bureaucracy."
Oneserve's Proctor said he is keen for the framework to be improved because the fundamental idea behind it is solid.
"We like G-Cloud and we think the principle behind it - giving government access to small, agile organisations and getting them onto cloud - is a great thing," he said.
"There have been frustrations around G-Cloud over the years and this was a real beacon of hope and opportunity to address some of those problems. My concern is that if it's not that and it's just going to be a damp firework, what damage is that going to do for G-Cloud?"
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