The Government's G-Cloud procurement framework has fast become essential for resellers working with public sector organisations.
Launched in 2012, the framework has now facilitated £2.4bn of public sector spending on cloud products and services, with over 2,000 suppliers winning a place on the most recent ninth iteration.
But in 2014, the then-two-year-old framework was not seeing such success.
Just £33m of business had been put through the infant procurement vehicle, with the average 12-month spend relatively low at £2.6m.
At this point the framework had already been written off by parts of the media, with one publication claiming that "the vision behind it has been brushed aside" and "all that remains is a marketing gimmick for the government to point to when SMEs ask what Whitehall is doing to open up opportunities for them".
It was at this time that former G-Cloud director Tony Singleton (pictured) took over responsibility for the framework, driving its total sales to over £1bn during his two-year tenure and lifting the average yearly spend to £42.7m.
By Singleton's own admission, G-Cloud required some work at the time it was brought under the jurisdiction of Government Digital Service (GDS), for which he was responsible.
Singleton has now moved on from civil service, last month joining procurement consultancy Advice Cloud.
Speaking to CRN shortly after his appointment at Advice Cloud, he said that despite negativity in some quarters, government buyers were on board with G-Cloud's ethos from the beginning.
"The scepticism was more around the media saying 'is G-Cloud just a gimmick to try to help SMEs?'" he said. "With the parts of government that I was working with on the digital side it was very much about supporting SMEs and the SME agenda.
"When I first set up GDS a lot of it was around how we work with the smaller suppliers.
"Also CCS [Crown Commercial Service] took it very seriously, so all the people I came across knew what we were going to do and what the benefits were."
Recent statistics released by CCS show that 47 per cent of all spending through G-Cloud has gone to SME suppliers, with the lion's share going to large suppliers.
The ratio spent with SMEs has shrunk over the course of this year, with figures published in January showing that 56 per cent of the £1.7bn spent at that time had gone to smaller suppliers.
Singleton explained that a key focus of the G-Cloud framework was to remove unnecessary barriers from tenders and contracts, making it easier for suppliers with fewer resources to complete the lengthy application processes, but warned that some frameworks have shown signs of becoming more complex again.
"One of the things we learned very early on with G-Cloud is that SMEs don't have that time or expertise," he said. "I've seen a lot of progress in how SMEs are responding to bids but I think there is still more to be done.
"My concerns for the future are, is there a risk that G-Cloud and other frameworks might suffer from bloats? [Such as] clauses being added back in without really thinking if there is a need for them, rather than 'we should add this because [of this reason]'.
"That's one of the things I want to do with Advice Cloud. As well as work within the public sector around trying to avoid that sort of approach, [I want to] also work with SMEs to try to understand the larger frameworks when clauses do start to be added in."
Lack of leadership?
In the future, Singleton said he'd like to see frameworks such as G-Cloud rolled out to other areas of public sector procurement, not just the tech side.
He did however express some concern at the future development of G-Cloud, questioning whether sufficient leadership is in place to keep the framework heading in the right direction.
"It's the overall vision and leadership," he said. "These are frameworks and individual procurement vehicles, but what drives it overall?
"When I first took over G-Cloud is was a programme and it was a quite far-reaching programme.
"That seems to have been forgotten about and people think 'this is an easy way to buy cloud-based services', and that's OK but if we're looking in two years' time, what is the digital marketplace going to look like then?
"I think that's where there is that lack of vision, or it may be that it has not been very well communicated. What will the landscape look like and what will this thing look like in two years' time?
"I think that's one of the things that I find frustrating about not running a framework now."
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