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Has the G-Cloud been a success?

The G-Cloud has recently marked its one-year anniversary (opens in new tab). With 458 suppliers listed in the CloudStore and a record high of £1.22m sales announced in December, can we consider it a success?

Well yes and no. On the one hand, the G-Cloud Programme (opens in new tab) was truly ground-breaking. It signified a new era in government technology by offering pre-approved, ready to use IT services to the public sector. This removes the biggest barrier to the uptake of new technologies – the long procurement process. Up until this point, many public sector organisations had been tied to long-term contracts with legacy systems with large tech vendors. Now public sector IT needs can be solved in days rather than months, resulting in a big boost in productivity.

The whole ethos behind the G-Cloud framework was to encourage cloud uptake in the public sector. This in turn will reduce costs and it has the dual benefit of making it easier for small UK businesses to win government IT contracts. By giving growing UK businesses the chance to secure the holy grail of procurement – a government contract – it opened the playing field to more specialised organisations, driving competition and innovation in the industry.

One year on, with a third iteration on the way, what do we need to do before we can celebrate its on-going success? Well, the launch was only the first hurdle, now we need the public sector to purchase through the CloudStore. Tinkering with the subcategories is not enough. 70 per cent of all IT spend will be in the cloud by 2015, according to analyst house Gartner, and government organisations should be working to pick this up for the lowest cost.

In order to move forwards, we need to adopt a Cloud First policy. Two years prior to the launch of the G-Cloud, Vivek Kundra, CIO of the US federal government, published a 25-point implementation plan that included a Cloud First policy to encourage US federal computing to move services to the cloud and delivery greater cost savings and efficiencies for the US taxpayer. We need to follow this example and mandate our own Cloud First policy, pushing cloud from the top down. It's a positive step forward, therefore, that such a Cloud First policy is awaiting parliamentary backing (opens in new tab).

Old habits die-hard but we need to change the way we view buying IT services and this lead needs to come from the Government Procurement Service (opens in new tab). It’s used to solving issues with complex technology systems, but more often than not the government turned to tech goliaths and integrators. This has to change and the GPS needs to recognise this new way of working as it ultimately brings savings to public sector organisations and the taxpayer.

Finally, it’s vital that the government doesn’t lose sight of its goals. The original aim for the G-Cloud Framework was two-fold - first, to encourage cloud take-up to reduce costs, and second, to make it easier for growing UK businesses to win government IT contracts, breaking the iron grip of the tech goliaths.

With Amazon and Google now vying for a place on the third iteration of the G-Cloud Framework, the government needs to stay focused on highly specialised services. If it widens the G-Cloud’s remit it’ll be taking a step back to the traditional government IT procurement framework where public sector organisations are locked into long term contracts that aren’t based in the cloud and don’t offer value for money. If people are given the option, they’ll pick what they know, it’s only natural. Unfortunately, this could lead to large tech vendors being picked over smaller more specialised companies that are based in the cloud and offer significant cost savings.

Unless we make a radical change in the way the public sector views and buys IT services, we'll be left behind when it comes to widespread cloud adoption.

His third Internet start-up, Alastair founded Huddle with Andy McLoughlin. (opens in new tab) Since setting up the company in 2006, Alastair has grown Huddle, employing more than 100 people in London, San Francisco and New York, raised in excess of $40 million in funding and seen sales triple year-on-year. As a passionate supporter of other entrepreneurs and the London start-up scene, Alastair co-founded the popular DrinkTank event and spends his free time investing in and mentoring other start-ups.