John Ketteley, executive chairman of Elecosoft, considers how the government’s digital marketplace is enabling vital change in public sector procurement beyond the build and into a sustainable future
When G-Cloud was announced in 2011, it aimed to support digital transformation. The government hoped that it would help shift half of government IT spending to the cloud by providing public sector organisations with a digital marketplace packed with validated solutions, proven in use and at scale.
Today, we can see that G-Cloud has been a considerable success. What started as a small marketplace has grown steadily, with £6.31bn in sales to date, according to the Crown Commercial Service (CCS). The figures reveal spending trends which should be good news for the many technology vendors that serve the fragmented and complex public sector building marketplace.
Coming from a sector that features many SMEs, it was good to see that 90% of the 700 new arrivals to G-Cloud 11 were smaller businesses. SMEs, officially any business with fewer than 250 employees, exceed 42% of the roster and may soon contribute on a par with large vendors, with spending reaching £779m in 2018-19.
Transforming public sector building procurement
Providing procurement teams with choices is part of the solution and the government recognises this. Building a Britain Fit for the Future was the focus of the most recent UK Industrial Strategy. It demonstrated a commitment to helping SME suppliers gain a greater market share. In construction and infrastructure, this was further reinforced in the subsequent Construction Sector Deal. All of this was preceded by the government Construction Strategy 2016-2020, which set out a tough £1.7bn goal in efficiencies.
This triad of policy publications is directed at the same essential need: improving the cost-efficiency, effectiveness, and agility of public sector building and the industry that supports it. This is a sweet spot for driving meaningful and impactful change because the public sector accounts for around 25% of all construction outputs. Get it right in construction and the future of efficient public sector operations as a whole is significantly and positively impacted.
All this puts public sector procurement around how buildings are planned, managed and maintained firmly in the frame for essential change. A longer-term, sustainable view of the design, building, and management of publicly funded buildings and infrastructure is a fundamental of the other great pillars of change: the BIM mandate and the Digital Built Britain Strategy.
Together, these forces create a strong call to action for public sector procurement. It must make innovative approaches to traditional challenges, leverage digital technology and take every advantage of the cloud and digital services increasingly being made accessible via the Digital Marketplace.
Grasping the chance for change
As a British software success story, it was with great pride that we joined the latest wave of suppliers going live on G-Cloud 11 to provide UK public sector customers easier access to Elecosoft’s Powerproject, IconSystem and ShireSystem software.
We see a broad and rich opportunity for public sector procurement to do more with cloud, mobile and other digital technology across the built environment, including public buildings and infrastructure.
In addition to embracing BIM and digital construction-capable platforms and tools to plan and manage the building process, such as Powerproject, it must look much further.
How public buildings such as schools and hospitals are built to set specifications and standards is vital to control costs and ensure safe and fit-for-purpose installations. Yet improving this means organisations such as local authorities must rapidly leave antiquated, document-based solutions behind.
For example, embracing modern, database-driven solutions such as IconSystem could eliminate insecure and inadequate distribution of out-of-date PDFs. It could connect teams to enable collaboration, and support suppliers and contractors to deliver consistency and quality, enabled by a single source of correct data, available everywhere.
Such approaches also enable tracking of installed materials so that if a health and safety issue is later identified – such as in an insulation product – it is possible to see exactly when and where it was used, for accelerated remediation.
The way in which public buildings and infrastructure are maintained must keep pace. There is vast opportunity to dovetail digitally modelled buildings with Building Information and Environmental Management Systems, of course – but this truly comes into its own when coupled with comprehensive, proactive and preventative maintenance models. This can only be achieved by incorporating computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS/CAFM) such as Elecosoft’s ShireSystem programme.
Elecosoft’s decision to apply to have a number of its market-leading software products listed on the G-Cloud was due to the successful evolution of the G-Cloud as an effective platform enabling specialised service and solution providers to bring such solutions easily to the attention of public sector decision-makers, for application in public sector construction projects and estates, which is a very positive development.
It is Elecosoft’s 80th year as a company involved in the UK construction industry and we are delighted to have joined other leading software vendors on the G-Cloud in providing software to support positive public sector change.
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