If you’re looking to sell your technology to the public sector, learning more about the UK government’s G-Cloud framework is a great place to start. The deadline to apply is 20th July 2020 at 5pm and if you miss it you cannot re-apply until next year. In this article our Head of Research, Johnny Hugill outlines the purpose of G-Cloud, how the framework is used, and how you can apply and get on G-Cloud.
What is G-Cloud?
TLDR: G-Cloud is an essential route to market for technology companies looking to work with government
G-Cloud is a framework used by the UK public sector (departments, local councils, NHS Trusts, police forces, schools, etc.) to buy digital and data services.
With £1.7bn on the framework every year, it represents about 15% of the entire UK public spend on technology (see more data on spend and composition here).
It is a particularly important route for startups and small companies because, rarely for government procurement, about 40% of this spend has gone to SMEs.
It is run and maintained by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) – the central government agency that runs procurement on behalf of government.
What is a framework?
TLDR: Frameworks are strange, but they’re how a lot of business gets done
A framework is a pre-approved list of companies that the public sector buys goods or services from. There are hundreds of frameworks live at any one point, with new ones being released every day. Depending on the framework, this list gets updated every year, every 2-4 years, and sometimes, even every 10 years.
Frameworks are used for three main reasons:
- They help public authorities to vet and assess companies up front, so that they don’t have to do the same assessments every time they buy from them.
- They shorten process that public authorities need to go through when they buy something, which is legally enforced by UK and EU law. Currently, if you want to spend above £118k as a public sector buyer, you need to go through a long, regulated process, including a formal competition. Frameworks allow you to procure stuff directly and quickly.
- They allow public authorities to use the support and skills of CCS when procuring (this is especially important for local councils and smaller public authorities who have less in-house commercial expertise.
This means that public authorities love using frameworks. In fact, many public authorities will only procure if they can use a framework to do it. Getting on to the right frameworks is therefore one of the single most important things for a company who wants to work with the UK public sector.
G-Cloud is a pretty unique framework, and was set up to deliberately make buying digital and data services easier. Most frameworks have 10-30 companies on (and therefore, are a more exclusive list), while G-Cloud has over 3,000 companies on.
This has been done on purpose – G-Cloud is by the far the easiest framework to get on to, both in terms of the process and the financial requirements for joining – but the fact that there are so many companies on the framework should be noted. This means that getting on to G-Cloud is not an automatic ticket to winning business – in fact, almost every single technology company that works with government on G-Cloud.
How do you use G-Cloud?
TLDR: Being on G-Cloud won’t automatically win you business – but it is a key part of a proactive business development strategy
The key to using G-Cloud is to fit it into your broader strategy for public sector business development. There are regular ‘calls for competition’ on G-Cloud, which anyone can apply to, but it is more powerful as a mechanism for public authorities to buy through once you have gone through your own organic customer acquisition process.
G-Cloud essentially works like any other marketplace. Companies list their services and their prices (usually licenses per user, per month). Public authorities then search for things (like ‘survey tool’, ‘idea management’, ‘process automation’, or ‘secure communications), and compare the different companies that show up.
(Note: you can change your service offering after you’ve submitted and registered – changes have to be reviewed, but it is fairly straightforward).
It’s important that you describe your services in a way that’s optimised for search terms, as with any other marketplace.
Importantly, the way the regulation works is that awarding contracts quickly and directly to companies (without a full tender competition) is easier if you are the only company that returns for a certain search term, or combination of search terms.
With this in mind, here’s how a smart G-Cloud strategy might look:
- Initiate conversations with relevant buyer (PUBLIC can help with this), and start building relationships.
- Tell them you are on G-Cloud: this will credentialise your company, but also reassure them that they can use it as a commercial route in the future.
- Convince them that your product is key to meeting some of their most pressing challenges.
- Work with the buyer to define the best search terms that will return your company as a result (and update your service offering if needed).
- Quickly and efficiently be contracted directly, with few restrictions on the total value of the contract.
Of course, G-Cloud is also used as a place for competitions, if the buyer does not have a certain supplier in mind. Keep track of these, and bid for ones that are a good fit.
Getting on to G-Cloud
**TLDR: Getting on to G-Cloud is actually straightforward, and just requires care and attention to detail (PUBLIC can help too!)
Before describing your business, check out your competitors, and see what returns when you search relevant keywords – here**
Getting on to G-Cloud is not particularly complex, and there is no real ‘silver bullet’. Most startups with a product successfully get on, and those that don’t usually will have failed to answer the questions clearly and carefully.
Here’s a few high-level tips for how to give yourself the best chance (applications can be made through this link):
– Pre-Qualification Questions
These are relatively easy, but time consuming, questions found under ‘Supplier Declaration’. We recommend you get them done early – so you don’t get caught out when the application deadline is looming.
– Your Service Description
Again, this section is fairly straightforward. There are a few quick tips, however, you don’t want to miss:
- Provide a clear name with a unique reference number
- You should detail your specific service (in layman’s terms) such that the buyer can understand simply what they are buying, and if you have a more general service you offer around it (support/training/etc.), then you should detail this as well
- Take a look at your competitors, and what returns when you enter certain terms – this is very useful and can be done here – https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/g-cloud/search
– The Free Form Document
The aim of the ‘Free Form Document’ section is to allow you to upload a document which explains your service in your own words. Though the free form document is not required for the G-Cloud application, we do recommend that you submit one – it is often a much better way to advertise your product and company in more detail, than the ‘Service Description’ section.
A few quick tips on how to structure your ‘Free Form Document’:
- Service overview – Provide a brief, succinct and clear overview of your service. This should be the quick sales pitch for the product.
- Detailed service definition – Provide a more detailed overview of the service you are providing. This should answer the following questions:
- How do you plan to execute your service?
- What do you expect the buyer to provide or input?
- What will you be providing?
- What is excluded from the service provision?
- What can the buyer expect in terms of deliverables, outcomes, and outputs from your service?
- What situations can your service can be used in?
- Why your company – Explain why buyers should buy from you. This is your chance to sell your company!
- Pricing – State how much your service costs and the structure of this pricing.
- Additional information – Any legal information that may apply to the services.