The cancellation at the end of December 2012 of the pan-Government hosting framework – a framework with a purported value of £1bn of tech spend – must have raised eyebrows and blood pressure across a big swath of the government facing IT vendors; for those of us who are interested Government watchers the last few months have provided plenty of content to digest. Has the UK Government gone mad or is there a deeper logic to its reasoning?
2012 saw the second round of the G cloud procurement which was enthusiastically supported by the Government, and also at the same time a mammoth pan-Government hosting framework was launched. Agencies such as the DVLA alerted interested suppliers to the fact that these new frameworks would likely be its preferential route – particularly the pan-Government hosting framework - to obtain new product and services so adding credibility to the widely repeated statement that the pan-Government hosting framework had a value of up to £1 billion worth of technology spend. You can imagine the hours spent and electricity burnt in technology companies’ offices up and down the UK - and indeed overseas - as these opportunities were assessed for value and risk.
2012 closed, however, with the news that the Cabinet Office had reviewed procurement and decided not to proceed with the pan-Government hosting process. The Cabinet Office had decided that the hosting framework only allowed the very largest technology companies to participate and UK Ministers had been vocal throughout 2012 noting that they wanted a big move away from using just the same ten global brand names because putting all their eggs in a small number of baskets had not been seen to have worked in terms of implementation nor value for money.
NGD - considering these procurement developments of 2012 - supports the UK Government in its actions in this area. The G cloud has opened up a very interesting route into government and the actual procurement process itself was all the things that you would want to be, i.e. reasonably easy to complete and yet asking for solid documentation to back-up a company’s claims thereby separating out those that would ultimately delay and devalue the process. The G cloud, when one really considers it, is more of a technology catalogue allowing access to a large ecosystem of technology providers and all of whom can contribute to the tech needs of the UK’s public sector. NGD holds G cloud supplier status and this means the UK Government and its partner bodies can conduct business with NGD directly should they wish rather than say just through a large system integrator as had been the case in the past.
The pan-Government hosting framework on the other hand was a very large and complex affair. NGD spent time and effort on this procurement but not as a direct supplier; NGD supplies one specific element of the technology stack - a world class data centre solution at IL3+ levels - but has no intention of becoming an ‘end-to-end’ managed service provider which was required. NGD is a specialist provider and that specialism is our strength and competitive advantage, so diluting it has never been an option.
The Cabinet Office’s decision to change its mind and look for procurement frameworks that allow best-of-breed companies to participate directly rather than just those that provide a blanket ‘one stop shop’ is welcomed by NGD. The approach by the Cabinet Office allows the Government to compare service offerings at a more detailed level – so rather than say measuring one shopping trolley full of goods and services against another now the government can now see if it is getting the best deal on a single item, say a tin of beans - and this focus and clarity will certainly provide cost savings to the Government and improve the quality of the products and services it buys and also allow more direct dialogue with leading technology providers. When the savings that can be made – just on a tin of beans if we take that to represent data centre services – are in the order of £100m+ across the whole of the UK public sector then you can quickly see the potential of the Government’s changed course of action. Above all, NGD is pleased to see the UK Government taking the necessary steps toward becoming a more intelligent buyer and so best use taxpayer funds to support core public services such as health and education.
Chris Williams is NGD’s lead on public sector matters and can be contacted at: