G-Cloud - A pigeon sat on a branch

by Dave Barter on

Actually the title should be "G-Cloud - A pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence", but that's a bit of a mouthful but you have to admit it's caught your attention even in shorter form.

Anyway, "A pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence" what's that all about and why have I slapped "G-Cloud" into the title? Is this an article about a pigeon contemplating purchasing some AWS credits via a government framework? Has said pigeon decided to move their homing system into the cloud?

Neither. It's a film and here's the synopsis:-

The story loosely follows two traveling novelty salesmen, Jonathan and Sam, who live in a desolate flophouse, and their unsuccessful attempts to win customers for their joke articles.

Now you're even more confused but it does have some relevance. We were sat in the office this morning trying to distract ourselves from an impending England World Cup game with a discussion concerning G-Cloud. Just in case you weren't aware, G-Cloud is a digital marketplace where UK public sector organisations can purchase cloud services from an online catalogue.

We think G-Cloud is ace and accordingly we're on it. But we also worry that it's not being used in the most effective manner and here's where we get to the pigeon. The office conversation went something along these lines:-

Dave: "Hooray we're listed on G-Cloud, let's tell everyone"

Duncan: "That's great Dave shall I sort out a webpage?"

Richard: "That's interesting Dave, every other supplier in the world has announced the very same thing today on Twitter"

Dave: "Hold fire on that webpage Dunc, we might need a different angle"

And then we got into a massive debate about G-Cloud and what it really is. This discussion went all over the place and centred around the premise that G-Cloud allowed public sector organisations to purchase services without the need to tender. Richard piped up with "So is that how it's used? Is it basically a tender avoidance mechanism?". And I replied "No" whilst thinking "Maybe it could be used better".

The theory of G-Cloud is sound. It is a digital marketplace where all can advertise their services on a level playing field. Suppliers are bound to a set of fixed terms and conditions and most importantly pricing is transparent. This for me is the critical factor. Suppliers cannot hide behind "We'll assess your requirements and give you a quote". The service definition must be absolute and the pricing clear. As such it creates a level playing field where all suppliers have effectively pre-tendered and buyers have absolute transparency concerning the costs they will have to pay. So all a public sector body has to do is come up with a need, search G-Cloud for a set of services that match that need, compare specifications and prices, then place an order. Simple.

But I do wonder whether it works that way in practise? The reason being that every single day my in-box is flooded with a set of tenders released by the public sector for stuff they could buy direct from G-Cloud.

And tenders for a company where each employee knows the others by name are a disaster. I make no excuses for saying that. We're a five-man-band and we've responded to many tenders over the years with an incredibly low hit rate versus effort put in. Some of them have had requirements lists that curiously match the exact specification of a single suppliers product. Others require Shakespearean levels of narrative completely unrelated to the desired specification. My favourite to date was a tender that required a turnover of £100k for the previous three accounting years and asked for innovation in the same breath ...sorry startups, you're not welcome here.

For a company our size tenders are hard and we very rarely respond, but G-Cloud should fix all of that shouldn't it?

  • pricing is clear
  • terms have already been agreed to
  • choice is HUGE with over 3,500 suppliers sat waiting behind a single search box
  • buying is simple all done online

Instead of writing a weighty tender document public sector bodies could simply search G-Cloud for one or many services that meet their needs and if they find them, buy them. There's nothing to prevent many of them being stitched together and G-Cloud contains a wealth of experience, capability and diversity. You can buy anything from DNA analysis to Podcast recording. I've searched and found services for both of these.

I firmly believe a G-Cloud search should become a standard/mandatory part of public sector purchasing. Tenders cost us all, both buyer and supplier and G-Cloud was conceived to remove a lot of that cost. I'd like to see a future where tenders are only released when the G-Cloud search clearly says "No". I believe this would save all of us and the tax payer a huge amount of money in the long term. And so my purpose of writing this article was half plea half advert.

Having read this far you'll hopefully be nodding in some form of agreement. But I bet there's still confusion concerning the pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence. Well it does have a certain relevance as the top salesmen in the film are attempting to sell via their jokey articles. I was struggling to come up with a punchy headline that would get you to read this far. "G-Cloud - Please could you use it more" didn't quite seem as punchy. Duncan and I were discussing alternative headlines that might be more catchy. I suggested "G-Cloud ate my Hamster" but was met with a room full of frowns. It somehow triggered Duncan to mention that he had this weird film on his watch-list simply because the title seemed intriguing. Serendipity kicked in as the film synopsis kind of reflected exactly what we're trying to do in this piece.

So if you find yourself on a virtual branch contemplating existence or how you could make things better for yourself and others? give G-Cloud a quick search and maybe it will have the answer. Alternatively watch the film, IMDB rate it 7/10 which seems pretty good to me.

G-Cloud - A pigeon sat on a branch

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