Some 25 SME G-Cloud providers have united to condemn the government’s latest agile procurement initiative, Digital Services 2 (DS2) branding it ‘unfit for purpose’. The companies feel strongly that DS2 - in theory designed to enable the public sector to engage with agile service providers to build digital services efficiently and cost effectively - is deeply flawed.
The issue arose in January this year when Crown Commercial Services, which owns both G-Cloud and the Digital Services Framework, removed agile development from G-Cloud 6, and (briefly) threatened to remove it from G-Cloud 5 too, thereby making DS2 the only procurement route for agile digital service delivery.
Chris Chant, founder of the original G-Cloud framework in 2011, explained what that means for SMEs: “For government to succeed in becoming digital-by-default, it must give the public sector access to suppliers that have the expertise and agility to deliver on that vision. But DS2 is deeply flawed and encourages body shopping. The prospect of winning just one function for a project and no others is not workable for most SMEs whose value lies in their whole collective experience of solving real user problems with creative digital solutions - not in hiring out nameless faceless suits on a day rate. ”
Harry Metcalfe, MD of one of the complaining businesses dxw explained why DS2 is a regressive step in procurement, “DS2 ignores the fact that good companies are more than the sum of their parts: a good digital agency isn’t just about headcount, it’s about culture and process and shared experience. The framework makes naive assumptions about what individuals can achieve at a remove from their normal team and process, and ignores the commercial realities facing SMEs.”
But on 18th February Tony Singleton, head of Government Digital Services stepped in and announced on the GDS blog that it is to set up a multidisciplinary team, made up of the right people from GDS, CCS and Treasury Solicitors (TSol) to build a DS3 that works for all parties. The new framework will replace DS2 as soon as it is ready, meanwhile G-Cloud will continue to support agile procurement.
The announcement was a huge boost to the campaign, but in a recent blog Metcalfe says it’s not over, ‘Not everyone is really invested in changing the current model. And some of the changes that are needed will be hard to make. But, as G-Cloud 1 showed, change is possible. As suppliers (and buyers!) we need to be vigilant, we need to be involved, and we need to be resolute: 2015 should be the year that rubbish IT procurement is shown the door. G-Cloud is proof that things can be better. It’s a runaway success, and a shining example of how good things could be.’