G-Cloud was founded for the purpose of streamlining the public procurement processes for cloud hosting, software and support.
In the Cabinet Office’s review on Accelerating Government Procurement, they identified excessive waste built into the existing traditional procurement process, including:
- Excessive amounts of guidance with too much variation, duplication and confusion over terms.
- Elongated timescales both pre-OJEU and during the procurement.
- Serial-processing, inefficient engagement with suppliers.
- Input-based specifications vs. outcomes.
- Risk aversion.
In contrast, it is theoretically possible to complete the entire G-Cloud procurement process in just 24 hours. In light of this, G-Cloud has been a revolutionary step in procurement innovation.
Through the G-Cloud, the public sector is able to buy digital cloud-based services ‘off-the-shelf’ in what is often referred to as a pay-as-you-go approach. This avoids lock-ins to expensive contracts and facilitates innovation, flexibility, as well as time and cost-effectiveness.
The benefits of G-Cloud include:
- It is quicker and cheaper to use than traditional procurement processes.
- G-Cloud is re-tendered regularly, so it is always up to date with the latest suppliers, services and information.
- It is easy to register and apply to participate in the G-Cloud framework.
- There are no hidden charges; prices, terms and services are transparent.
- Many services are available to try at no cost.
- There is a bigger range of suppliers than any other framework
- Buyers can contact suppliers directly with questions.
- There is no ‘lock-in’ – all services state up-front how you get in and out.
- The G-Cloud eradicates the need for contract negotiations, an OJEU or ITT.
- With G-Cloud, SMEs can compete with larger companies on a level playing field.
Moreover, since its inception G-Cloud has generated sales of over £4.36bn, 43% of which was awarded to SMEs, demonstrating that G-Cloud can be a valuable resource for suppliers of all sizes.
How Does it Work?
Perhaps the simplest way of describing how the G-Cloud works is by comparing it to eBay, as the two function in quite a similar manner. Let us take a specific example:
- Step One: You hope to buy a vase.
- Step Two: You search for the vase on eBay, applying filters to specify material, size etc.
- Step Three: You shortlist the results to five vase suppliers.
- Step Four: You consider each of them individually to ensure that you get the best value for your money. The first vase does is not the style you wanted. The second is shipped from China and the delivery time is too long. The third is too expensive. The fourth is made from the wrong material. And the fifth is perfect.
- Step Five: Having considered all your options, you purchase the fifth vase.
The crucial difference is that, on the G-Cloud, buyers must be fair to all suppliers and be able to justify their final decision.
Buyers: What They Buy
Buyers seeking to procure Cloud Hosting, Software or Support can do so through the Digital Marketplace, which helps buyers find suppliers for specialist services for digital projects and cloud technology. These services can be procured through three frameworks:
- Cloud services (e.g. accounting software) can be procured through the G-Cloud framework.
- Digital outcomes, specialists and user research services can be procured through the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework.
- Physical datacentre space can be procured through the Crown Hosting Data Centres framework.
One of the major benefits of the G-Cloud is that it is an OJEU compliant framework, meaning that any public sector buyer can buy from the G-Cloud without needing to execute a full-fledged procurement. G-Cloud does not allow for mini-tenders, but buyers can contact suppliers directly, to request clarification on the supplier’s approach to the project, including cost and timeframes. These clarification requests serve a very similar purpose to that of a mini-tender.
Via the Digital Marketplace, buyers can perform a keyword search with filters to find suppliers that meet their requirements. All registered suppliers have pre-authenticated information about their company and how work, which saves buyers time during the procurement process.
Buyers: How They Buy
G-Cloud requires buyers to consider every supplier equally and fairly, to facilitate equal opportunity in the marketplace. This requires buyers to maintain a record of each of the steps they have taken so that they can justify their final decision. Tools and Templates are available to support this.
The steps in the buying process are as follows:
- Write a list of your requirements and get approval to buy what you need.
- Search for services and save your search.
- Refine your saved search using the filters.
- End your search.
- Download your search results, review and compare services.
- Choose your service, award and sign the contract (or ‘call-off’).
- Publish the contract on Contracts Finder.
- Complete the Customer Benefits Record form.
Buyers must treat all suppliers equally. As such, if only one supplier meets a buyer’s needs, then they can award the contract to them without taking any further measures. However, it is typical that a buyer will have to draft a shortlist of suppliers. In this case, the buyer is required to choose the supplier with the most economically advantageous tender, otherwise known as MEAT.
Sellers: Getting Started
All supplier applications go through the Digital Marketplace. To apply, you must:
- Create, or log into, a supplier account on the Digital Marketplace.
- Start your G-Cloud application.
- Make the supplier declaration on the Digital Marketplace.
- Agree to the framework terms.
- Confirm how you’ll work with the government.
- Answer questions to establish grounds for mandatory exclusion.
- Answer questions to establish grounds for discretionary exclusion.
- Provide information about your organisation.
- Add service information on the Digital Marketplace.
- Use 50 words to introduce your service.
- Use 100 words to describe up to 10 service benefits (10 words per benefit).
- Use 100 words to describe up to 10 service features (10 words per feature).
- On your supplier page, use 50 words to describe your organisation.
- Before you can submit a cloud service to the Digital Marketplace, you need to add a pricing document and a terms and conditions (specific to that service) document.
- Wait for eligibility checks to be made on your information.
- Get the result of your application.
- Sign and return your framework agreement on the Digital Marketplace.
Although this process is quite simple, it is important to remember that the G-Cloud is a relatively new route to market, with different buying groups, buying behaviours and competition. It contains a number of novel contractual clauses and commercial obligations, and even the style of registration is different to what suppliers may be used to. As such, suppliers may find it difficult to navigate and often neglect to fully consider the opportunities and challenges that the G-Cloud can present.
Indeed, only a fraction of the companies listed on the G-Cloud have actually made sales. This is most likely because suppliers incorrectly assume that, as it is so easy to register with the G-Cloud, establishing a successful listing must also require little effort.
How We Can Help
NewBusiness.Dev can offer end-to-end services or help with specific aspects of the procurement process. We employ a team of expert bid writers, G-Cloud Consultants and Public Sector Procurement Specialists with extensive experience. If you would like more information regarding our bid management and Cloud services, drop us a line.
NewBusiness.Dev Ltd, Lauren McNeilage & Mary-Anne Farah