As the Cloud Store celebrates its first birthday, we gathered some top tips for buyers looking to procure from the framework.
These tips come from Caroline Milton from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) - the independent regulator of all health and social care services in England - which recently procured managed hosting and support services from Ixis.
Here are her top tips for procuring from the G-Cloud framework:
1. Write high level requirements for your initial sweep of G-Cloud. This can feel scarily sparse for those used to writing long and detailed functional and non-functional specs. Although some of the detail is useful further down the line, you don't need it all for your initial search of G Cloud (and it may hinder rather than help in the early stages).
2. Although professional services - such as consultancy - are commoditised on G-Cloud, you will need a much fuller specification to allow for fair appraisal and costing by suppliers. These services are usually advertised at a rate per day but the cheaper companies may take longer, resulting in a higher overall cost.
3. It can be difficult to compare prices between suppliers on G-Cloud. It may feel like you have to choose on the basis of the information on the website, but we were encouraged by the G-Cloud team to make contact with suppliers to de-mystify their prices and it helped us make smarter and more cost-effective choices.
4. You may find yourself with the option of either buying the services with one supplier or different parts of the service amongst several suppliers. It's worth considering the benefits of both - we found that splitting services across several suppliers would be cheaper but would increase the load on our team, therefore meaning a greater overall cost in terms of time and money.
5. Unless you're procuring something simple and you're confident that the pricing and service is clear, I would recommend meeting suppliers. Also, where we found that costs and services were very similar, after meeting suppliers we often felt we had more of a shared understanding and rapport with some than others.
6. On larger procurements it was still necessary for us to use selection panels, weighting criteria and more detailed requirements when we started meeting our shortlist - G-Cloud doesn't completely replace your current procurement processes but can work alongside them. We sent requirements and weighting criteria to suppliers before meeting them. After a couple of bad experiences, we now include 'engagement with the process' in our scoring sheet to allow us to discount suppliers that miss deadlines or are poor communicators.
7. Use the G-Cloud team for help and advice. With their support, we successfully navigated through a fairly complex procurement in about 8 weeks - one that would've traditionally taken several months.