17th Nov 2011
The government has received nearly 300 responses in a month from firms bidding to be part of the national Cloud Computing programme – but SMEs are missing out because they're not applying.
It’s an official part of government policy to get more SMEs pitching for ICT business across the public sector, something that too many have been deterred from attempting due to the cost and complexity of current procurement procedures.
So while the Government Procurement Service has received nearly 300 responses to its month-old tender notice for the G-Cloud – the national Cloud Computing strategy designed to reshape the public sector service delivery landscape – SMEs are not rising to the challenge.
Andy Nelson, CIO at the Ministry of Justice and a senior figure in the G-Cloud programme management, admits that the two biggest obstacles to G-Cloud's success remain the demand on suppliers to increase the standardisation of services and the need to build a 'pay as you go' model of Whitehall procurement.
“Conceptually (commoditised services is) exactly where we're heading. Clearly standing it up in government framework with consumer usage is different. But conceptually, that's where we're going,” he said this week.
He added that the government is determined to move towards using a centralised procurement model for Cloud-based ICT services. “We really want to do this but we're still learning. We are shifting away from theory and starting to put real things out there,” he explained.
But there are still not enough SMEs pitching for the work, added Chris Chant, programme director for the G-Cloud in a blog posting where he noted: “We have trained our suppliers and ourselves to think that we need big, complex solutions to complicated problems; which has meant that all too often it’s only the big, complex suppliers that get a look in.”
This is changing, he insisted. “We are giving SMEs and ourselves a chance to work together by levelling the playing field for all IT suppliers,” he argued. “This won’t happen overnight and we won’t get it right first time. This is new territory for many departments and very few are experienced at handling this new way of working. I think it’s fair to say that many just can’t see how this can happen yet though many know it must.”
Chant insisted that the government realises that the procurement rules are a barrier and that work is taking place to address some of the major challenges. In the meantime, the G-Cloud is an ideal vehicle to tap into, he claimed.
“We have made the G-Cloud procurement a lot easier to understand and get through,” he said. “G-Cloud has no massively complex set of requirements that you need a PhD to understand. Just use the forms to tell us what services you have – all the documentation is online and we’ve written a simple [downloadable] guide if you have never worked with us before. In fact if you haven’t we really want you to apply.
“We can do more and we will do more. The GDS Innovation team is opening up new channels for suppliers to work with us, especially on small projects. We can and will make procurement even simpler for everyone.”
The business is there for the taking, he concluded: “If you are a SME and you have a SaaS (Software as a Service) or other Cloud service that government might use – we want to know about it.”