SMEs unite in condemnation of Digital Services Framework


Some 25 SME G-Cloud providers have united to condemn the government’s Digital Services 2 (DS2) branding it “unfit for purpose”.

The companies feel that the latest  initiative, which is 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, 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. ”

In January Harry Metcalfe, MD of dxw, a tech startup dedicated to the public sector,  called upon other similarly affected G-cloud suppliers to unite in condemning DS2. It started with a lone blog on February 4th and within hours the #gcloudforever debate had begun, with many SMEs voicing their online. Numerous blogs and tweets called for DS2 to be scrapped and agile procurement via G-Cloud to stay.

Metcalfe 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.”

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, 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.


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