G-Cloud can help public sector buyers dodge the bureaucracy of a European tender process – but there is no centralised coalition-led push to get more agencies and departments using it.
So says Mark Davison, director of information management & technology at Berkshire Health Trust, a mental and community services body for a million locals, which was a G-Cloud virgin until it bought a Lync SaaS from Outsourcery last week.
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The two-year contract will eventually cover 4,000 users across 100 sites, priced at £450 per seat, though in the initial stages just 1,000 of the Trust's staff will have access to the services.
Asked why he hadn’t used G-Cloud to buy tech before, Davison told us: “When you do procurements you are always looking for sensible routes where people have already forged a path.”
He said there were lots of “bulletins and flyers” about G-Cloud doing the rounds “but I don’t get the sense this is a huge push”. He added, “it allowed us to avoid the bureaucracy of an OJEU”.
G-Cloud remains a tiny fraction (£455m) of the multi-billion pounds of taxpayer cash spent on ICT each year; in the three years since launch only 455 suppliers have transacted any business via the web catalogue.
The public sector is mandated to go cloud-first when buying tech – but in practice that business doesn’t seem to be filtering down to the G-Cloud in any big way.
Davison said it “dabbled digitally" with Cisco WebEx but reckons the cost per license was too high, and it wasn’t utility based.
“Invariably some users needed it twice a year, for others it was twice a day,” he said.
The Trust forecasts £200,000-a-year savings from the use of Lync SaaS, estimating that as well as cutting costs on travel time, it will improve patient care.
“In the NHS, where 70 per cent of the costs are in the workforce, that is a big deal," Davison said. "We are trying to protect clinical time for patients".
The Berkshire NHS Trust is in the process of planning its tech strategy for the next five years. Moving 70 per cent of its estate into the cloud is more than a possibility.
“Some things are suited to move, some aren’t because of legacy issues or security,” Davison told us.
Now that Berkshire NHS Trust has found G-Cloud it may use the services again, as long as those already procured work as advertised. Perhaps if more buyers knew about the route, they’d use it too.
But with less than one per cent of the Government Digital Service's budget dedicated to the G-Cloud, don't hold your breath. ®