Data published by Crown Commercial Service (CCS) shows that Total G-Cloud sales passed £2.8 billion in 2017.
However, despite the fact that G-Cloud was supposed to give contracts to smaller suppliers more than half of the spending by government and public sector organisations is still going to large suppliers.
In fact since 2012 and 31 December 2017, G-Cloud has facilitated £2.85 billion of spending – with 52 percent of this going to what the government classifies as large suppliers.
SME suppliers have cashed in 48 percent of total sales through G-Cloud, but this has come from 71 percent of the deals put through the framework.
To be fair, the figures are a slight improvement for SMEs since the last time data was released, with numbers published for the period up to 31 July showing that just 47 percent of spending was going them.
Last week the government revealed that over £3.2 billion had been spent by the public sector on digital services through G-Cloud and two other frameworks – Digital Outcomes Specialists and Digital Services.
Immigration policies need to be changed to address the “digital skills crisis” in the UK, a government select committee has said.
The Science and Technology Committee has published a report stating that it needs to be easier for SMEs to employ people from outside the EU, while claiming that the skills gap currently costs the UK £63 billion annually in lost GDP.
The report report called for the requirements for immigrants to be changed so that IT jobs can be obtained using Tier 2 visas. This allows SMEs to more easily employ people from abroad.
The government recently made changes to help SMEs recruit specialists from outside the EU, but the report says that the new rules exclude companies with 20 or fewer employees.
Science and technology committee chairwoman Nicola Blackwood said: “The UK leads Europe on tech, but we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind.
“The government deserves credit for action taken so far but it needs to go much further and faster. We need action on visas, vocational training and putting digital skills at the heart of modern apprenticeships.”
Also unable to take advantage of Tier 2 visas, along with smaller companies, are firms that are more than 25 per cent owned by a larger company and those with “significant investment” from FTSE 100 companies.
The committee wants digital skills to be made one of the “core components” in all apprenticeships, not just digital apprenticeships.
While the UK government policy is to encourage more SMEs to bid for government contracts it seems that big corporations still have their foot on the throats of the system.
Cabinet Office boss John Manzoni admitted to the Public Accounts Committee that more than 60 per cent of the government’s overall spending with SMEs is subcontracted through larger firms first.
Nigel Mills, Conservative MP for Amber Valley in Derbyshire and PAC member was not particularly impressed and said that when the government promised that we would give a lot more work to small and medium-sized businesses, I have a feeling that people probably thought that we meant that we would give it directly to them so that they would be contracting with the government.
“Whereas in actual fact, most of this work – probably something like 60 per cent of it – is through a prime contractor that feeds the work on. I sense that a lot of small businesses aren’t happy that some of the public sector pay for the work they do is creamed off by a prime contractor that then inflicts some other rather unfair terms on them. Do you actually think that it is a success when 60 per cent of the work that we give to SMEs is through somebody else first?”
However Manzoni said he thinks the figure is “fine” although he thought that the government had a lot more to do.
“We did business with 26,000 small and medium-sized enterprises last year, and we have worked with 85,000 different companies since we started counting in 2011, and I don’t think it is feasible for central government to interact individually with that number at that level – there are 5.5 million of them in this country.”
He said that there was a natural supply chain, and the government has to encourage its supply chain not to hold cash and pay at the last minute, and all those sorts of things.
“We have to work very hard on that, but I don’t think that a picture where we contract directly with all those small and medium-sized enterprises is a reasonable picture to paint.”
Microsoft has launched a package to lure start-ups and SME’s to its Azure profile by offering them $500,000 in Azure credits.
The deal, announced by partner Y Combinator, is only available to Y Combinator-backed companies and will be offered to the 2015 Winter and future batches.
It seems that Microsoft is following Google, AWS and IBM which already offer incentives for start-ups to join them.
Microsoft is giving Y Combinator start-ups a three years Office 365 subscription, access to Microsoft developer staff and one year of free CloudFlare and DataStax enterprise services.
It is starting to look like Microsoft is getting more aggressive in its competition with Amazon Web Services and Google, both of whom already offer credits and freebies.
Amazon offers $25,000 in AWS credits and other freebies, while Google offers $100,000 in Google platform credits and IBM offers $120,000 in credit for SoftLayer infrastructure of BlueMix PaaS.
Writing in his company’s bog Sam Altman said that this brings the total value of special offers extended to each YC company to well over $1,000,000. “The relentless nagging from partners to grow faster we throw in for free,” he said.
It is likely that the YC deal is the first of many which will be rolled out worldwide to Microsoft’s partners.
ASM Technologies has announced a new service designed to help the channel gain lucrative public sector contracts my sticking to strict government guidelines, which require that 25 to 50 percent of all IT contracts flow through SMEs.
The new SME Access Service aims to allow big IT resellers to add hundreds of SMEs to their books, allowing them to navigate through the public sector. It provides system integrators and value added resellers with direct access to ASM’s agile distribution network of SMEs, which should allow them to meet government requirements.
The government currently mandates that public sector organisations must award at least a quarter of all contracts to SMEs by 2015. SMEs are defined as enterprises with a turnover of less than €50 million or fewer than 250 employees. As the euro sign indicates, this is the EU-wide definition.
The requirement means that the channel has to establish new supplier relationships and tap more SMEs in order to bid for government contracts. While it is a clever way of supporting SMEs, it also tends to drive costs up and reduce revenue, as multiple SMEs sometimes must be brought in to bid for a contract.
ASM’s goal is to cut costs and save time by establishing distribution agreements with multiple suppliers, which would make it possible for SIs and VARs to bid for government contracts they otherwise wouldn’t be eligible for. In addition, it allows them to get access to products and services are more competitive prices.
“A number of large resellers have considered adding SMEs to their supply chains in order to meet government requirements, however with contracts to draw up, terms agreed, credit lines to be established and distribution infrastructures to put in place, they are finding this to be a slow, painful and expensive process – especially when they’re trying to sign up a few hundred SMEs in one go,” said Iain Tomkinson, Sales Director at ASM Technologies. “By taking advantage of our existing supplier relationships and agile channel infrastructure, the SME Access Service provides greater efficiencies for the IT channel through immediate access to over 1200 SMEs through just one supplier relationship, so they can continue to bid successfully for government contracts.”
ASM argues that its new programme is a win-win for all involved, as it helps SMEs get more business and build relationships within the channel, while at the same allowing big SIs and VARs to bid for contracts that would be out of their reach without some SMEs on board.
Although SMEs want the best enterprise class tech available to them, many are struggling with mundane yet profoundly annoying problems such as email outages, according to a survey.
At least 60 percent of respondents had suffered from an email outage over a three month period, the report found.
Imerja, an IT infrastructure company that conducted the survey, warned that the importance of effective communication channels, including email, can’t be overlooked. Even a small outage can negatively impact business and hit revenues.
As SMEs are being told they’re the way out of economic misery and as part of the recovery, they should probably make sure their basic communication networks are secured, Imperja warned.
Managing director Ian Jackson said: “Investing in the right IT can add significant value to a business, but companies won’t be able to reap the rewards of technology fully if they’re still having problems with essential business systems like email”.
A way forward can be outsourcing business critical IT, whether that is for email, infrastructure hosting, or videoconferencing as a service. This “takes away risk and reduces the overhead of running an in house system, often with added security benefits too,” Jackson said.
“Managed services for IT can really boost productivity because any problems that arise are identified quickly and dealt with before they have the chance to escalate and cause problems,” Jackson said.
Despite not getting any computer training, UK SMEs are dab hands at IT DIY, according to a new survey.
The survey commissioned by TalkTalk Business shows that more than 40 per cent of SME staff get no training at all, yet 62 per cent will try and tackle IT dilemmas before calling someone else in.
Tech trouble causes two hours of downtime per employee each week and more than more than two-thirds of people believe tech-smart staff are valued more highly.
More than half admit that IT training would make them more efficient.
IT is not as if they find it easy. Office workers admit that it’s not just specialist software that causes trouble more than 47 percent say hardware issues are ‘very challenging’, and nine percent of respondents even say they struggle with commonplace software such as spreadsheet packages.
Charles Bligh, Managing Director of TalkTalk Business said that the UK SME workforce is a nation of amateur DIY technicians despite a lack of formalised training.
The research, which reveals the extent of UK business’ tech skills gap and its impact on small businesses, suggests that if SMEs that give more priority to IT training will gain the equivalent of one extra member of staff for every 20 employees.
Bligh said that addressing the skills gap effectively is the key to unlocking any investment in technology.
EE has released its results for the first quarter of 2013 and it is apparently seeing an uptake in 4G use. The 4G user base reached 318,000 five months after the service was introduced. EE says it is on track to meet its target of over a million customers by the end of the year.