More intensive G-Cloud 9 application period closes on schedule
Exact number of suppliers to complete their applications is presently unconfirmed; several stakeholders broadly welcome framework changes, albeit it with reservations
The application period for suppliers wishing to gain a place on the ninth iteration of the G-Cloud framework closed on schedule yesterday (April 11) as the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) presses ahead with reforms for public sector procurement of commodity cloud services.
It remains unknown how many suppliers have completed the revised application process within the deadline, with CCS confirming that no incomplete submissions would be accepted beyond the 5:00pm cut off.
An estimated 4,268 suppliers have at least started the application process for the ninth iteration of the agreement, which will function as something of a fresh start for the framework that has been operating since 2012. As of 4pm on April 11 - the last time complete information was available - 2,854 providers had completed the application process, according to the official supplier applications dashboard . By the end of the day, the figure rose to 2,856.
However, the Cabinet Office said these were not believed to be the final figures for complete applications with a future update still expected.
Several stakeholders have broadly welcomed some of the changes to the framework application process, which is seen as creating more work for suppliers, but allowing for more personalised and detailed service descriptions in order to gain business.
After a discovery phase that aimed to introduce more sweeping reforms to the arrangement, G-Cloud 9 is designed to provide a revised lot structure that will cut the previous four service categories down to three:
- Cloud Hosting
- Cloud Software
- Cloud Support
It is also intended to allow for two separate 12 month contract extensions beyond the maximum two year limit associated with the framework. Restrictions on these extensions will apply for Whitehall bodies.
While all previous iterations of G-Cloud were designed to run parallel with the previous version of the agreement by design, this latest iteration will run as a single framework, requiring all suppliers to register to offer services.
One stakeholder that has worked around the application process described the process to apply as being harder work than previous application processes resulting in both pro and cons for suppliers, not least in requiring more details on service offerings to garner public sector business.
“The approach of spelling out, section by section that you need to write some free text to qualify an answer is giving the buyers information they need and a discipline to the suppliers (many of whom didn't put nearly enough information in their offerings - and made no sales as a result),” said the stakeholder.
The same source argued that not all changes would be beneficial, citing the amended taxonomy of software categories now available through the framework, which were seen as lacking clarity in some cases and potentially restricting how services can be located.
The stakeholder nonetheless welcomed what they saw as a focus on improved accessibility through G-Cloud 9. However, concern was expressed over a perceived imbalance in describing what a product does. While the process provided a large number of security questions, suppliers were given only 10 bullet points, consisting of ten words each to detail specific features.
Another supplier that spoke to Government Computing said the G-Cloud 9 design and application process was creating more work for companies looking to sell cloud services to the public sector, but on the whole, has shown positive changes.
In particular, the supplier argued that the framework had moved away from the use of pre-set drop-down answers, allowing for suppliers to detail more unique characteristics of their service offerings. It was also possible to use some answers submitted for previous iterations of G-Cloud if a suppler chose.
The supplier added that as with all changes, there were some concerns about the latest overhaul of G-Cloud.
“[G-Cloud 9] is not perfect and is never going to be, but they have made an awful lot of improvements,” said the source.
Citing the recent launch of the applications dashboard for G-Cloud 9, the supplier noted there had been a massive ramp-up in the last few days of applications, speculating that some may have found themselves potentially underestimating the amount of work required.
With the framework set to go live next month, the same source noted some concern about the switch towards annual updates of the framework from the present focus on launching new iterations between six and nine months.
Less regular updates of a single framework were seen as potentially locking out suppliers from providing their services to government, according to the source.