Cloud computing brings with it the flexibility and cost-effectiveness the public sector requires to continue to provide high-quality services in the fast-changing digital age. But being able to respond quickly to any need also requires a rapid and flexible procurement system that mirrors the well-established benefits of cloud. And that’s where the G-Cloud framework comes in.
G-Cloud is part of the Government’s Digital Marketplace, but it’s different from the other procurement frameworks. Think of G-Cloud like a mobile app store: it contains a huge range of pre-defined and pre-approved cloud services, from assured infrastructure right up to full, ready-to-use applications. From a buyer’s perspective, you know exactly what you’re procuring and what it will cost.
But with over 21,000 services listed, finding exactly the right one can at first seem intimidating.
The good news is that by following some simple steps, you can quickly narrow this huge number down to find the best service for your needs. And once you do, getting your chosen supplier in place can be remarkably quick, because there’s no need to go through a full OJEU process.
Here’s how to procure quickly and successfully through G-Cloud.
1. Know what you want
It sounds obvious, but before you even start looking on G-Cloud, take some time to understand what your key requirements are. What is the business need you’re trying to fulfil? What are your security, compliance and connectivity requirements? What is your budget? What sort of service quality levels are you after?
It doesn’t have to be a long, traditional requirements specification, but knowing these key needs will make the next step of the process a lot easier, and enable you to identify which of the many pre-defined cloud services is best for you.
2. Choose your search terms carefully
With 21,000+ services to choose from, the secret to finding what you need is to be specific. While you can search across all four categories of cloud service, it helps to start by choosing one of the four G-Cloud lots: Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service or Specialist Cloud Services. The G-Cloud landing page has guidance on which to search under.
When choosing the words you search for, be specific. Rather than look for something general, such as ‘cloud platform’, add in key words from your earlier list of requirements, perhaps around network connectivity (N3, PSN, RLI), security or service management requirements.
If the number of results is still too large, you can easily add more search terms to the ‘Keywords’ box on the left-hand side of the results and press Enter to re-run the search. And like you can with a Google search, you can exclude words from your results by typing a minus symbol (-) in front of them in the search box.
3. Refining your service list
Once you’re happy with the search terms you’re using, it’s time to narrow down your list based on further criteria. To do this, use the category listing and checkboxes on the left-hand side. Each of the four G-Cloud service categories offers different ways to refine the results, so if you originally searched across all categories, it’s a good idea to click through to either Software, Platform, Infrastructure or Specialist Cloud Services at this point.
Once you do, you can refine based on things like the minimum contract period (some suppliers offer contracts as short as an hour), whether the supplier offers a free trial, the service management options and network connectivity.
4. Read the fine print
Having refined your search down to a handful of suppliers, read through the pricing, service definitions, terms and conditions and other details for the available options. These will form part of the contract between you and your eventual supplier.
Note that there are always two versions of the G-Cloud framework live, one newer than the other. As a buyer, you can procure from both. You may notice that suppliers offer what appear to be identical services on both framework versions. If that’s the case, check the service details and pricing carefully, because it may be that the service offering has been updated or the prices changed.
Rapid procurement process
By following these steps, you should relatively quickly be able to find the right G-Cloud service for your needs. Once you do, you might be surprised at how quickly you can get your chosen supplier on board. Because each vendor on G-Cloud has already gone through the rigorous OJEU process, all you need to do is to contact the supplier, confirm what you’re buying and the pricing needs, review and sign the contract and you’re ready to start work.
While the exact time the whole process takes will vary between procurements, we’ve seen public sector bodies with a well-understood set of requirements go through the process of finding and engaging a supplier in a little over a week.
This is precisely the sort of agility the public sector needs to harness the power of cloud and respond to fast-changing demands of the digital age.