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UK government extends 'G-Cloud 9' framework for public sector cloud services procurement until May 2019

The UK government has promised major changes to the way public sector bodies procure cloud-based IT services after it extended the term for the current iteration of its 'G-Cloud' framework by as much as a year.30 Nov 2017

The G-Cloud is a framework for UK public sector bodies to buy cloud-based IT services which first went live in February 2012. Through the G-Cloud, UK public sector bodies can access a wide range of pre-vetted vendors and services, through an open, transparent and competitive online platform, known as the Digital Marketplace.

Standardised contract terms apply to transactions, and there are pre-approval guarantees that suppliers meet privacy and security requirements. For IT suppliers, there is an opportunity to win major public sector contracts by having their services indexed and searchable by buyers. There is streamlined process for suppliers to join the marketplace, which is designed to encourage participation and competition from SMEs.

According to figures up to July 2017, £2.4bn of business has been done through the G-Cloud to date, with 47% of total sales by value and 73% by volume going to SME suppliers, which found it difficult in the past to win huge government IT contracts.

G-Cloud is now in its ninth iteration. The framework agreement for G-Cloud 9 was scheduled to expire on 21 May 2018, but the government has decided to exercise its right under that agreement to extend the term by up to a year. It said G-Cloud 9 will now expire "on or before 21st May 2019".

"The decision to extend G-Cloud is not being taken lightly," the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) said. "It will allow time for CCS and GDS (Government Digital Service) to deliver a revolutionary transformation to the platform to meet more user needs – both central government and wider public sector."

The CCS also recently confirmed extensions to two other government IT frameworks – Digital Outcomes and Specialists 2, and Cyber Security Services 2. It said the extensions are designed to give it time to make changes to the Digital Marketplace.

"Previously, we have undertaken continuous and regular refreshes for each of the individual agreements," CCS said in its extension notification. "However, this hasn’t always given us adequate time for the Digital Marketplace to be developed beyond simply the refresh of these agreements, to meet identified user needs. More time is now needed to transform the platform and make it scalable and more flexible, enabling more framework services and improved customer and supplier functionality based on what user needs have identified."

"Supplier and customer feedback has told us that you don’t just want the agreements refreshed ‘as is’. Rather than looking at each agreement individually, we are introducing a more holistic approach to common technology goods and services. We have taken your feedback very seriously, and we are developing a roadmap to improve the end-to-end buyer and supplier journey, as well as the broad needs of CCS from a policy, strategic category, sourcing and operations perspective," it said.

Some of the changes that CCS said that it and GDS are focused on include the introduction of "consistent, standard yet flexible contracting model options", a better system for categorising, indexing and finding the technology services available, and delivering a "single, simple, reusable supplier registration process".

Rachel Forbes, an expert in technology contracts at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "The extension of G-Cloud 9 represents an opportunity for both suppliers and the government to look at why over 70% of suppliers are reportedly yet to make a sale on the framework. G-Cloud itself, whilst revolutionising and transforming the way in which government procures IT services, is clearly still not perfect, if at iteration number 9 such a large proportion of suppliers on the framework are not utilising it and winning business."

"The government needs to work collaboratively with these suppliers and take the opportunity not only to help those suppliers win business under G-Cloud 9, but to work towards fixing any underlying issues in future iterations of G-Cloud. The government has shown itself to be proactive in obtaining and making changes following supplier feedback and hopefully this will be an opportunity to continue in the same vein," she said.