The UK Cabinet Office report 'Making Government Business More Accessible to SMEs: Two Years On' has been criticised by a pressure group called the 10% Group, claiming to be working in the interests of SMBs.
This new group has alleged that the G-Cloud accreditation process is too much hard work for SMBs looking to win government contracts.
But what the Cabinet Office actually announced is that 10 per cent of all direct government spend has been with SMBs, with a further 10 per cent spent indirectly in the supply chain, bringing the government closer to achieving its 25 per cent target for SMB business.
And this figure has been eclipsed by the results from the revolutionary G-Cloud framework, where 56.4 per cent of total G-Cloud sales have been with SMBs.
This lobby group's claims are therefore puzzling, to say the least. And its behaviour undermines the significant progress the government has been making towards achieving its target.
Our company is an SMB that was excluded from membership of the 10% Group. But I can only suggest that the group has confused the headline overall spend with G-Cloud, which in turn points to a fundamental misunderstanding of our government, how it works and how it procures technology.
The G-Cloud sales figures should be cause for celebration for all SMBs that aspire to supply UK government.
It's also important to note that we're still 18 months away from the initial target date that was set. Yet the results so far have been incredibly impressive in terms of opening the UK public sector market to SMBs, and I would argue that the G-Cloud framework has given many SMBs a much greater opportunity to compete for and win public sector contracts.
SMBs are making up 80 per cent of suppliers on the CloudStore. G-Cloud has created an open and transparent marketplace; big suppliers can no longer rely on their name or market presence to win contracts.
It's now all about being able to provide the best service at the best cost. By promoting innovation, agility and value for money, G-Cloud has succeeded in encouraging competition in the market and driving up standards of service among some of the previously inflexible incumbents.
Another common criticism of the programme is that the reported spend is relatively low. However, every £1 spent via G-Cloud equates to £10 spent on old-world IT. This means that what is now available via the framework is up to 90 per cent cheaper than what it is replacing. We should be focusing on the huge amount of money saved – rather than money spent – and Tony Singleton, chief operating officer at the Government Digital Service (GDS), has already noted this is a priority.
The government is pushing for increased partnerships and cloud adoption.
Initiatives such as the Government Procurement Pledge are actively encouraging big suppliers to engage with smaller ones. The pledge specifies that public sector organisations should work with supply chains to provide more sub-contracting opportunities to smaller providers where possible, and advertise these opportunities through the Government Contracts Finder service.
Furthermore, the Public Cloud First policy has played a major role in encouraging central government organisations to move away from legacy technology and consider the benefits offered by a host of assured and cost-effective cloud services.
To ensure that more public sector organisations learn about the benefits of cloud adoption, rather than berating the government for the lack of SMB contracts, we as an industry should focus on educating public sector organisations on the benefits.
Suppliers also need to learn how easy it is to offer services through G-Cloud in association with other providers and offer a more compelling and complete proposition to the UK public sector.
While G-Cloud accreditation might cause headaches for some service providers, there's an excellent opportunity for organisations to partner with companies that already offer an accredited platform.
Without the need for considerable expenditure on infrastructure or the cost and complexity of gaining accreditation, partners can enter the UK public sector market quickly and significantly accelerate their sales.
G-Cloud has set up a vibrant marketplace that has tipped the balance of power in favour of the end user – ultimately, UK taxpayers and residents.
There are huge opportunities for suppliers of all sizes to offer government organisations highly secure, low-cost utility services that can deliver better business outcomes for substantially lower cost.
We hope that – under the wing of GDS and with the fourth iteration of the framework now underway – the long-term goal of 25 per cent of government contracts going to SMBs will be met.
Rather than focusing on how far we have to go, we should be publicising the positive results seen so far, the opportunities for vendors of all sizes and the numerous tangible benefits to the buying community of working with SMBs.
Phil Dawson is chief executive officer of Skyscape Cloud Services
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