Gearing Up for G-Cloud 9: Advice for Winning Digital Business in Government

The UK government is one of the most digitally advanced in the world. It also has significant challenges: Brexit, the need to transform itself for the benefit of citizen and taxpayer alike, delivering better and more with significantly less.

Historically, government has not been seen as an easy market, either to break into, or to do business with. Government’s huge legacy ICT spend has been tied up with a handful of global suppliers, and any new opportunity tended to be within the supply chains of these suppliers.

G-Cloud changed all that, and has opened the door for SMEs and new market entrants alike to do business with government. Government benefits from technical innovation, commercial flexibility and significantly lower costs driven by a transparent, but highly competitive marketplace. The UK benefits because G-Cloud has already been proven to create jobs in the UK and fuel growth.

When G-Cloud 9 opens for business on 7th March, government can expect thousands of applications, from suppliers that are familiar with G-Cloud, from those familiar with government, and from those who have never done business with government before.

Its relatively straightforward to gain a place on the G-Cloud framework. It is less straightforward to win business. The G-Cloud market is highly competitive, and successful suppliers tend to have product and services that meet government’s needs, and are fit for purpose.

Advice on G-Cloud 9 from UKCloud – a leading G-Cloud IaaS provider

From online tax returns with HMRC, complex data analytics at Genomics England and integrated vehicle and driver records at the DVLA, G-Cloud has been the foundation for many of the government’s most successful digital transformation projects. They have all been delivered via G-Cloud, by UKCloud.

We have provided services to the UK public sector through G-Cloud from the outset, so we have significant experience of the framework itself, but more importantly, the UK public sector’s cloud computing needs. Although UKCloud has a direct presence on G-Cloud in the IaaS lot, we also work with partners to provide an assured, secure platform for their innovation. We enable our partners to differentiate themselves from their competition.

As G-Cloud 9 approaches, we wanted to offer some advice based on our experience:

  • Build or partner: It can take months or maybe even years to build your own UK-sovereign hosting facilities. Many firms simply don’t see the economics stacking up here anymore. Instead there has been a massive move to public cloud. Not only are we seeing client organisations vote with their workloads and budgets, opting for public cloud at an increasing rate, but as diginomica recently reported, Government Digital Service (GDS) has also issued recent Technology Code of Practice guidance that well-executed use of public cloud services is now appropriate for the vast majority of government information and services.

Our Advice: Partner with a public cloud provider and focus on the added value that you can provide on top of their infrastructure.

  • Specialist vs Generalist: Speak to any public sector organisation and they will describe their needs a unique – and they’re not joking. As a supplier you need to understand this. If you are a specialist in this area (like us) then you will already appreciate this, but if you’re new to the sector and don’t understand the fine nuances of how it works then it can all be a bit baffling. Aligning yourself with one of the global generalist public cloud providers isn’t going to help you at all here. Instead you are better off working with partners that provide specialist services that directly meet the needs of the UK public sector. After all, our specialist focus and devotion to service excellence has enabled UKCloud to secure over a third of the IaaS market on G-Cloud. This approach has not only been successful for us, but also for our ecosystem of partners. Records show that UKCloud’s partners are almost three times as likely to win business on G-Cloud than those that do not partner with UKCloud.

Our Advice: Specialisation has worked well for us and we recommend that you take the same approach.

  • Certification, accreditation and speed to market: another challenge for suppliers that are new to the UK public sector is certification and accreditation. As mentioned above building your own infrastructure can take years, but you then need to spend even longer (at even more cost) securing the necessary certifications and accreditations. Again partnering can be key. Only a handful of providers (like UKCloud) have platforms that meet all government’s requirements in this respect.

Our Advice: Find a provider that has the highest possible level of accreditation and certification, with substantial experience in helping its partners comply with government’s cloud security principles. This will accelerate your speed to market.

  • Avoiding Lock-in: Lock-in is one of the main concerns of the UK public sector and it can come in many forms, including technological lock-in: in reality there is limited workload portability between public clouds. As soon as you take advantage of any of the higher-level services of the generalist public cloud providers, you lock yourself into the APIs associated with those services, and as soon as you write to any of their apps the same occurs. This can be avoided by using platforms that are common to many providers, like VMware or OpenStack. Then there is the contractual lock-in: G-Cloud may specify 2-year maximum contracts, but it doesn’t specify exit costs or protect you from some of the other methods that some providers use to lock you into their service.

Our Advice: We are committed to open standards and from the day we started business we committed to being easy to adopt, easy to use and easy to leave. This has worked well for us and we’d advocate the same approach.

  • Pricing:In any procurement process price is key – but not everyone thinks about currency fluctuations. It can be hard, unless you operate at scale as we do, to be competitive on price, but one way that you can provide an advantage is by billing in good old British pounds. Part of the reason that organisations are seeking to move to the cloud is to go from Capex to Opex. With the global providers there have been massive recent currency fluctuations that have pushed prices up by as much as 22%. This isn’t something that clients are usually able to cope with.

Our Advice: Protect your clients by billing in sterling and by partnering with firms that do so also.

With less than 10% of central government workloads in the cloud and an even lower ratio elsewhere in public sector, there is still a great deal of growth to be expected for suppliers to the UK public sector. Government’s challenges will drive this growth, and the Government Transformation Strategy is clear on the size of the opportunity. The next wave of workloads moving to the cloud will do so via G-Cloud 9.

This blog first appeared on Diginomica