My diary this month is dominated by our submission for the tenth iteration of the G-Cloud framework. This is a government purchasing framework which has been running since 2012 and has been extremely successful for us – to date we’ve won more than £13m in contracts!
Traditional public sector tenders are hard work for small businesses, and you often have to question whether it’s worth investing the time in responding. There are endless forms to fill in and hoops to jump through to demonstrate that your business meets specific standards and is financially viable.
However, frameworks such as G-Cloud have made things much easier for both suppliers and potential purchasers.
They were developed to help the public sector benefit from the creativity and agility of SMEs while reducing procurement costs – thus providing better value for taxpayers – and we’ve found them a very effective way of winning work.
Some of our business comes through suggesting to customers who aren’t already using the framework that they look at it when buying new IT services. We’re effectively using it as a marketing tool.
This raises the question of why it’s taking so much of my time this month, particularly now that G-Cloud is on its tenth iteration. There are two reasons. Firstly, after frequent iterations with as little as five months between versions, Crown Commercial Services, who run the framework, appear to have settled on an annual framework update cycle.
We’re in a fast-moving industry, so we need to make sure we’re offering services that public sector organisations actually need. The framework cycle gives us the incentive to step back and take a strategic look at how the market has changed since the last iteration.
Examples are the growing popularity and falling costs of public cloud services (which we also offer), and what services are generating the most interest. For example, we’ve decided that it’s increasingly difficult to define where ‘back up’ ends and ‘disaster recovery’ starts, so this time round we’ll be offering a data security and recovery service that combines both.
We also look at solutions that we’ve developed for specific customers to see if they can be offered as a generic service. The chances are that if one organisation has a particular issue, other organisations will have the same problem, so why should they reinvent the wheel if we can offer them a tried and tested solution? This led to the development of our Identity Management as a Service offer, which provides single sign-in to all an organisation’s services through the cloud.
Second, it’s vital that we’re extremely clear and accurate with the descriptions of our services. The framework is like a catalogue, and customers either buy what you’ve defined, or they don’t buy anything.
Customers can also compare everyone in the market, which means your service has to be both compelling and correctly priced. You may be on the framework but it doesn’t mean you’re going to get any business – you’re just in the catalogue. So, I’ll be working closely with our technical consultants to review and refresh our service descriptions and ensuring that our services are competitively priced.
These frameworks are by no means perfect, and they still involve a lot of work. But they’re a much better way of handling public sector procurement than the alternatives – which is why G-Cloud is high on my agenda this month.
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