The public sector digital procurement challenge

By:Government Computing | March 17

Andrew Mellish, public sector business manager for Carrenza, considers why G-Cloud has become the template for digital procurement and how the Crown Marketplace may develop in turn

G-Cloud, hosted via the Digital Marketplace, has achieved many of its main aims since it was unveiled in 2012. Not only has it levelled and widened the playing field and opened up opportunities in the public sectors to SME suppliers, but it has also reduced barriers to entry and stoked competition.

From my point of view, the opportunities available to businesses like Carrenza via G-Cloud are only going to grow and, as we’ve said before, the future is looking bright for smart vendors on the framework. With that in mind, it was interesting to see  Reform’s call for a procurement revolution across Government in its latest report that looks at the future of public sector procurement.

In short, Reform has suggested that the G-Cloud template should be rolled out across public sector procurement and has called for a digital Crown Marketplace to replace the myriad of procurement frameworks that exist within the public sector. The report is bullish about G-Cloud’s success, particularly the savings it’s made, something that has been debated itself over the years and will no doubt continue to be. The report also recommends that Government Digital Service should design the new Crown Marketplace pan-Government digital procurement platform.

Putting aside the unaudited savings figures, Reform has a point. I mean presumably the Digital Marketplaces’ “quicker, cheaper and more competitive” offering could be rolled out elsewhere to become the template for all sorts of procurement? As Reform point out, that approach has already worked in Estonia, who have reduced the cost of procurement administration by 30 per through going digital.

Fast, transparent and once set up, administratively light, there is no doubt in my mind that digital marketplaces lower barriers to entry and allow more firms to compete for government contracts, while helping the Government to meet the “digital by default” strategy and service standard.

Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock, has already pledged to extend the lessons of G-Cloud “across government procurement, introducing a Crown Marketplace to find innovative suppliers and the savings they unlock, in digital and beyond.”
But what this will look like in practice is unclear, perhaps Reform’s report offers some guidance? A lot of things can be commoditised and traded digitally?

Personally, I feel we have a way to go until the digital skills across industry from both the supply and buy sides exist to be able to support this move, particularly the lack of support for training in these skills at a time when they are so highly sought after. There has been a lot of focus on how to close the skills gap and it seems that bridging this gap and the influx of capital are the big challenges that lay ahead if the UK government is going to try and cement its place as one of the leading worldwide technology hubs.

I know, as GDS discussed at SPRINT ’16, that some departments are already attempting to address this by setting up internal training centres or ‘universities’ to encourage skills sharing and that staff are able to work in the new digital world, and this is a great start.

However, I also believe that more must be done and this needs to involve collaboration between GDS, the departments, local authorities and other public sector bodies & agencies, and the supplier community.

I’m a big believer in enabling users to do more in less time, in a way that they understand intuitively.

That might sound a bit vague, but for me, it’s important that users want to use tools they are given and those tools should make their work easier, and at least be comparable to those they use in their personal/home lives.

Surely that’s at heart of today’s opens source, collaborative, open, flexible, easy to use approach to computing. Everything goes. You shouldn’t need to choose to tie your organisation to using a particular hypervisor, particular OS, a particular development language, instead you should use these tools tactically and use the best tool for each particular challenge, with an open approach meaning it’s easy to move from one solution to another as needs dictate.

As Dan Sutherland, our CEO, often says; organisations should no longer need a five year IT strategy, six months is probably far enough.

Carrenza is sponsoring  Think Cloud for Digital Government; a conference that will showcase work that is happening within UK public sector. The event is taking place on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, at the QEII Centre, Westminster, London. 

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