Huddle in government

By December 2010, efforts on the government’s “G-Cloud” programme had come to little. Thousands of hours’ effort from both government and suppliers (the latter at their own cost) had been spent chasing an ill-defined goal. Proofs of concept were developed to prove ill-conceived or unconceived concepts. Data was asked of departments with little idea what it might be used for, either by the collectors or the providers.

But this was OK. Because failure can only be achieved if the goal is defined. Without a goal, no one can measure your progress towards it.

I was a part of that programme, and my voiced concerns fell on deaf ears. So I went slightly renegade, with the support of my employers. And fought hard for something that I believed in, something that might be of use to government.

And one of my last pieces of work when working as a consultant to government was to negotiate and implement the first pan-government cloud agreement, which went live in March 2011.

My goal was to agree and implement a common and enforceable set of terms and conditions (and costs) to which government departments must sign up to use the services of a cloud provider that was already beginning to be widely used across government: Huddle.

No public body would be able to sign up to using the service (or indeed renew their existing contract) without agreeing to the terms and paying the costs on the ratecard. And Huddle would not be able to enter into an agreement with a public body that strayed away from these terms or costs (either up or down).

Organisations would still need to go through due diligence and the necessary processes to ensure that the product was chosen in a legal and fair manner. But the expensive negotiation process undertaken by each department in blissful ignorance of the same process occurring elsewhere on Whitehall would be gone.

The result was endorsed by Buying Solutions, the predecessor of the Government Procurement Service, on 31 March 2011, and represented the first such agreement: a centralised cloud solution with predefined terms and conditions with commercial endorsement from government.

Fifteen months on, this is where we are. Proud times indeed.

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