A step in the right direction for government procurement

by Sam Lewis

As an individual consumer, when you know what you want, you can hop online, research potential suppliers, engage with those suppliers and make a purchase decision. When you are buying on behalf of a public sector agency you've got a bunch more hoops to jump through in the name of transparency and inclusion, but does the process really need to be any different? If you are procuring digital products or services in the UK it doesn't, because you've got the G-Cloud.


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G-Cloud is an initiative targeted at easing procurement burden and costs incurred by public-sector agencies and departments of the UK Government for information technology services that use cloud computing. It also encourages SME vendors to engage in public sector procurement, and openly supports open source and Agile development.

Let's say you are in the market for a hosted learning management system (LMS) and you've heard good things about Totara LMS. It is an open source platform, so you can choose from a number of potential partners who offer implementation services. The scale of your implementation is likely to breach OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) thresholds so traditionally you were faced with registering a tender, inviting bids and all the process and costs in time and effort that entails. No longer.

For suppliers like Catalyst, our registration on the G-Cloud pre-qualifies our services for any public sector customer. Enter Totara LMS as search term on the G-Cloud front page (https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/g-cloud) and you'll return 12 references to potential suppliers, including us (https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/g-cloud/services/7501838585211410). As a buyer - assuming our offer meets your requirements - you are now able to engage directly with us as a shortlisted supplier. No tender issues, no pre-qualification process, just targeted, efficient vendor engagement.

Catalyst as significant suppliers to the New Zealand government were quick to recognise the potential of this platform and through our UK subsidiary, were the first New Zealand owned business to register our services on G-Cloud. It's a shop window, which of course addresses only a part of our sales process, but for government customers who know what they are looking for, it makes buying from us just that little bit easier.

Longer term, as public sector buyers get more comfortable with buying like they do as individual consumers, we'll expect to see a much more dynamic marketplace for software, platform and infrastructure as a service. Decisions to upgrade to more efficient and cost effective should not be hindered by vendor lock in or inertia created by the spectre of procurement process. The confidence to purchase systems as component parts rather than as an integrated whole, will drive efficiency and open standards as buyers specify interoperability as core functionality.

I suspect we'll still see monolithic scope-creep ridden blow-out IT projects get through, but hopefully much less frequently than in the past.     

We don't have a similar system in New Zealand, but we should. We've got far fewer domestic vendors but the same challenges of procurement practices that favour bigger (and often overseas owned) as best. The Australian DTO (Digital Technology Office) is following many of the leads of the UK's GDS (Government Digital Service) - it must be worth a look. Maybe we just sell more to the UK government!

If you are in the UK, check out our other G-Cloud services below. We'd love to hear from you. 

Mahara (ePortfolio) https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/g-cloud/services/7718105308298534

Samba (Windows Integration) https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/g-cloud/services/7436396512190181

Alfresco (Document Management) https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/g-cloud/services/7123254812389244

Cloud and Openstack Services https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/g-cloud/services/5898737620615168