Taking G-Cloud Further Forward

A recent blog post from the G-Cloud team talks about how they plan to take the framework forward. I don’t think it goes quite far enough, so here are my thoughts on taking it even further forward.

Starting with that G-Cloud post:

It’s noted that “research carried out by the 6 Degree Group suggests that nearly 90 percent of local authorities have not heard of G-Cloud”.  This statement is made in the context of the potential buyer count being 30,000 strong.  Some, like David Moss, have confused this and concluded that 27,000 buyers don’t know about G-Cloud.  I don’t read it that way – but it’s hard to say what it does mean.  A hunt for the “6 Degree Group”, presumably twice as good as the 3 Degrees, finds one obvious candidate (actually the 6 Degrees Group), but they make no mention of any research on their blog or their news page (and I can’t find them in the list of suppliers who have won business via G-Cloud).  Still, 90% of local authorities not knowing about G-Cloud is, if the question was asked properly and to the right people (and therein lies the problem with such research), not good.  It might mean that 450 or 900 or 1,350 buyers (depending on whether there are 1, 2 or 3 potential buyers of cloud services in each local authority) don’t know about the framework.  How we get to 30,000 potential buyers I don’t know – but if there is such a number, perhaps it’s a good place to look at potential efficiencies in purchasing.

[Update: I’ve been provided with the 30,000 – find them here: http://gps.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/2013-04-15%20Customer%20URN%20List.xlsx. It includes every army regiment (SASaaS?), every school and thousands of local organisations.  So a theoretical buyer list but not a practical buyer list. I think it better to focus on the likely buyers. G-Cloud is a business – GPS gets 1% on every deal.  That needs to be spent on promoting to those most likely to use it]

[Second update: I’ve been passed a further insight into the research: http://www.itproportal.com/2013/12/20/g-cloud-uptake-low-among-uk-councils-and-local-authorities/?utm_term=&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=testitppcampaign&utm_source=rss&utm_content=  – the summary from this is that 87% of councils are not currently buying through G-Cloud and 76% did not know what the G-Cloud [framework] could be used for]

Later, we read “But one of the most effective ways of spreading the word about G-Cloud
is not by us talking about it, but for others to hear from their peers
who have successfully used G-Cloud. There are many positive stories to
tell, and we will be publishing some of the experiences of buyers across
the public sector in the coming months”
– True, of course.  Except if people haven’t heard of G-Cloud they won’t be looking on the G-Cloud blog for stories about how great the framework is.  Perhaps another route to further efficiencies is to look at the vast number of frameworks that exist today (particularly in local government and the NHS) and start killing them off so that purchases are concentrated in the few that really have the potential to drive cost saves allied with better service delivery.

And then “We are working with various trade bodies and organisations to continue
to ensure we attract the best and most innovative suppliers from across
the UK.”
  G-Cloud’s problem today isn’t, as far as we can tell, a lack of innovative suppliers – it’s a lack of purchasing through it.  In other words, a lack of demand.  True, novel services may attract buyers but most government entities are still in the “toe in the water” stage of cloud, experimenting with a little IaaS, some PaaS and, based on the G-Cloud numbers, quite a lot of SaaS (some £15m in the latest figures, or about 16% of total spend versus only 4% for IaaS and 1% for Paas).

On the services themselves, we are told that “We are carrying out a systematic review of all services and have, so far, deleted around 100 that do not qualify.”  I can only applaud that.  Though I suspect the real number to delete may be in the 1000s, not the 100s.  It’s a difficult balance – the idea of G-Cloud is to attract more and more suppliers with more and more services, but buyers only want sensible, viable services that exist and are proven to work.  It’s not like iTunes where it only takes one person to download an app and rate it 1* because it doesn’t work/keeps crashing/doesn’t synchronise and so suggest to other potential buyers that they steer clear – the vast number of G-Cloud services have had no takers at all and even those that have lack any feedback on how it went (I know that this was one of the top goals of the original team but that they were hampered by “the rules”).

There’s danger ahead too: “Security accreditation is required for all services that will hold
information assessed at Business Impact Level profiles 11x/22x, 33x and
above. But of course, with the new security protection markings that
are being introduced on 1 April, that will change. We will be
publishing clear guidance on how this will affect accreditation of
G-Cloud suppliers and services soon.”
  It’s mid-February and the new guidelines are just 7 weeks away.  That doesn’t give suppliers long to plan for, or make, any changes that are needed (the good news here being that government will likely take even longer to plan for, and make, such changes at their end).  This is, as CESG people have said to me, a generational change – it’s going to take a while, but that doesn’t mean that we should let it.

Worryingly: “we’re excited to be looking at how a new and improved CloudStore, can
act as a single space for public sector buyers to find what they need on
all digital frameworks.”
  I don’t know that a new store is needed; I believe that we’re already on the third reworking, would a fourth help?  As far as I can tell, the current store is based on Magento which, from all accounts and reviews online, is a very powerful tool that, in the right hands, can do pretty much whatever you want from a buying and selling standpoint.  I believe a large part of the problem is in the data in the store – searching for relatively straightforward keywords often returns a surprising answer – try it yourself, type in some popular supplier names or some services that you might want to buy.   Adding in more frameworks (especially where they can overlap as PSN and G-Cloud do in several areas) will more than likely confuse the story – I know that Amazon manages it effortlessly across a zillion products but it seems unlikely that government can implement it any time soon (wait – they could just use Amazon). I would rather see the time, and money, spent getting a set of products that were accurately described and that could be found using a series of canned searches based on what buyers were interested in.

So, let’s ramp up the PR and education (for buyers), upgrade the assurance process that ensures that suppliers are presenting products that are truly relevant, massively clean up the data in the existing store, get rid of duplicate and no longer competitive buying routes (so that government can aggregate for best value), make sure that buyers know more about what services are real and what they can do, don’t rebuild the damn cloud store again …

… What else?

Well, the Skyscape+14 letter is not a terrible place to start, though I don’t agree with everything suggested.  G-Cloud could and should:

– Provide a mechanism for services to work together.  In the single prime contract era, which is coming to an end, this didn’t matter – one of the oligopoly would be tasked to buy something for its departmental customer and would make sure all of the bits fitted together and that it was supported in the existing contract (or an adjunct).  In a multiple supplier world where the customer will, more often than not, act as the integrator both customer and supplier are going to need ways to make this all work together.   The knee bone may be connected to the thigh bone, but that doesn’t mean that your email service in the cloud is going to connect via your PSN network to your active directory so that you can do everything on your iPad.

– Publish what customers across government are looking at both in advance and as it occurs, not as data but as information.  Show what proof of concept work is underway (as this will give a sense of what production services might be wanted), highlight what components are going to be in demand when big contracts come to an end, illustrate what customers are exploring in their detailed strategies (not the vague ones that are published online).  SMEs building for the public sector will not be able to build speculatively – so either the government customer has to buy exactly what the private sector customer is buying (which means that there can be no special requirements, no security rules that are different from what is already there and no assurance regime that is above and beyond what a major retailer or utility might want), or there needs to be a clear pipeline of what is wanted.  Whilst Chris Chant used to say that M&S didn’t need to ask people walking down the street how many shirts they would buy if they were to open a store in the area, government isn’t yet buying shirts as a service – they are buying services that are designed and secured to government rules (with the coming of Official, that may all be about to change – but we don’t know yet because, see above, the guidance isn’t available).

– Look at real cases of what customers want to do – let’s say that a customer wants to put a very high performing Oracle RAC instance in the cloud – and ensure that there is a way for that to be bought.  It will likely require changes to business models and to terms and conditions, but despite the valiant efforts of GDS there is not yet a switch away from such heavyweight software as Oracle databases.  The challenge (one of many) that government has, in this case, is that it has massive amounts of legacy capability that is not portable, is not horizontally scalable and that cannot be easily moved – Crown Hosting may be a solution to this, if it can be made to work in a reasonable timeframe and if the cost of migration can be minimised.

– I struggle with the suggestion to make contracts three years instead of two.  This is a smokescreen, it’s not what is making buyers nervous really, it’s just that they haven’t tried transition.  So let’s try some – let’s fire up e-mail in the cloud for a major department and move it 6 months from now.  Until it’s practiced, no one will know how easy (or incredibly difficult) it is.  The key is not to copy and paste virtual machines, but to move the gigabytes of data that goes with it.  This will prove where PSN is really working (I suspect that there are more problems than anyone has yet admitted to), demonstrate how new capabilities have been designed (and prove whether the pointy things have been set up properly as we used to say – that is, does the design rely on fixed IP address ranges or DNS routing that is hardcoded or whatever).  This won’t work for legacy – that should be moved once and once only to the Crown Hosting Service or some other capability (though recognise that lots of new systems will still need to talk to services there).  There’s a lot riding on CHS happening – it will be an interesting year for that programme.

The ICT contracts for a dozen major departments/government entities are up in the next couple of years – contract values in the tens of billions (old money) will be re-procured.   Cloud services, via G-Cloud, will form an essential pillar of that re-procurement process, because they are the most likely way to extract the cost savings that are needed.  In some cases cloud will be bought because the purchasing decision will be left too late to do it any other way than via a framework (unless the “compelling reason” for extension clause kicks in) but in most cases because the G-Cloud framework absolutely provides the best route to an educated, passionate supplier community who want to disrupt how ICT is done in Government today.  We owe them an opportunity to make that happen.  The G-Cloud team needs more resources to make it so – they are, in my view, the poor relation of other initiatives in GDS today.  That, too, needs to change.

Cloud First (Second and Third)

Watching, and playing a very small part, in G-Cloud, the UK government framework for purchasing cloud products and services, over the last 2 1/2 years has been a fascinating experience.   It’s grown from something that no one understood and, when they did, something no one thought would work into the first, and probably only, framework in government with greater representation from small companies than large companies and one that refreshes faster than any other procurement vehicle ever.

What G-Cloud doesn’t yet have is significant amounts of money flowing through it – the total at the end of May was some £22m.  With its transition from “programme” to business as usual, under the aegis of GDS, it should now get access to the resource it has been starved of since birth.  The absence of that would, had it not been for tireless passion and commitment from its small team, have resulted in it being killed off long before now.  GDS should also bring it the needed Political cover to help it find a role  as part of the agenda for real change, but there are challenges to overcome.

In 1999, Jack Welch told every division in GE, the company he was then CEO of, that e-business would be every division’s “priority one, two, three and four.”

In 2013, UK government went a little further and mandated that, for central government, cloud would be first in every IT purchasing decision.  Local government and the wider public sector would be strongly encouraged to follow suit.

It’s a laudable, if unclear, goal.

The previous incarnation of this goal held that “50% of new spend” would be in the public cloud – that was perhaps a little sharper than a “cloud first” goal – if, as I’ve written, we could be clear about what new spend was and track that spend, then achieving 50% would be a binary achievement.  Testing whether we are “cloud first” will be as nebulous as knowing whether the UK is a good place to live.

Moving G-Cloud from a rounding error (generously, let’s say 0.05% of total IT spend; it’s probably 1/10th of that even) to something more fundamental that reflects the energy that has gone in from a small team over the last 3 years or so requires many challenges to be overcome.  Two of those challenges are:

1) Real Disaggregation

Public sector buyers historically procure their IT in large chunks.  It’s simpler that way – one big supplier, one throat to choke, one stop shop etc.  Even new applications are often bought with development, hosting and maintenance from one supplier – leading to a vast spread of IT assets across different suppliers (not many suppliers, just different). Some departments – HMRC and DWP perhaps – buy their new applications (tax credits, universal credit) from their existing suppliers to stop that proliferation.

Even today’s in vogue tower model, with the SIAM at the top (albeit not its prime), there is little disaggregation.  The MoJ, shortly to announce the winner of its SIAM tender, will move all of its hosted assets from several suppliers, to one (perhaps – there is little to no business benefit in moving hardware around data centres, common sense may prevail before that happens).  MoJ had, indeed, planned to move all of its desktop assets from several suppliers to one but recently withdrew that procurement (at the BAFO stage) and returned to the drawing board – the new plan is not yet clear.  In consolidating, it will hopefully save money, though some of that will likely be added back when the friction of multiple suppliers interacting across the towers is included.  The job of the SIAM will be to manage that friction and deliver real change, whilst working across the silos of delivery – desktop, hosting, apps, security, network etc.

But disaggregating across the functional lines of IT brings nothing new for the business.  Costs may go down – suppliers, under competitive pressure for the first time in years will polish their rocks repeatedly, trying to make them look shinier than that of the others in the race.  Yet the year, or even two years, after the procurement could easily be periods of stasis as staff are transferred from supplier to supplier (or customer to supplier and even supplier to customer) and new plans are drawn up.  During that time, the unknown and unexpected will emerge and changes will be drawn up that bring the cost back to where it was.

In a zero-based corporate cloud model, you would also have your IT assets spread across multiple providers – and you wouldn’t care.  Your email would be with Google, your collaboration with Huddle or Podio, your desktops mights be owned by the staff, your network would be the Internet, your finance and HR app would be Workday, your website would be WordPress, your reporting would be with Tableau and so on.

In contrast, the public sector cloud model isn’t yet clear.  Does the typical CIO, CTO, Chief Digital Officer want relationships with twenty or thirty suppliers?  Does she want to integrate all of those or have someone else do it?  Does she want to reconcile the bills from all of them or have someone else do it?

But if “cloud first” is to become a reality – and if G-Cloud spending is going to be 50% of new IT spend (assuming that the test of “cloud first” is whether it forces spend in a new direction) – then that requires services to be bought in units, as services.  That is, disaggregation at a much lower level than the simple tower.

Such disaggregation requires client organisations that look very different from those in place today where the onus is on man-to-man marking and “assurance” rather than on delivery.  Too many departments are IT led with their systems thinking; GDS’ relentless focus on the user is a much needed shift in that traditional approach, albeit one that will be relentlessly challenged in the legacy world.

As Lord Deighton said in an interview earlier this month, the “public sector is slightly long on policy skills [and] … slightly short on delivery skills.”  I agree, except I think the word “slightly” is redundant.

2) Real Re-Integration

As services disaggregate and are sourced from multiple providers, probably spread around the UK and perhaps the world, the need to bring them all together looms large.  We do this at home all the time – we move our data between Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and Instagram all of the time.  But public sector instances of such self-integration are rare – connecting applications costs serious money: single sign-on, XML standards, secure connections, constant checking versus service levels and so on.

Indeed, a typical applications set for even a small department might look something like this:

Integrating applications like this is challenging, expensive and fraught with risk every time the need to make a change comes up.  Some of these applications are left behind on versions of operating systems or application packages that are no longer supported or that cannot be changed (the skills having long since left the building and, in some cases, this Earth).

New thinking, new designs, new capabilities and significant doses of courage will be required both to bring about the change required to disaggregate at a service level and to ensure that each steps is taken with the knowledge of how a persistent whole will be shown to the user.

The change in security classifications (from BIL to Tiers) will be instrumental in this new approach – but it, too, will require courage to deliver.  Fear of change and of high costs from incumbents will drive many departments to wait until the next procurement cycle before starting down the path.  They too, will then enter their period of stasis, delaying business benefits until early in the next decade.

To be continued …

Fully Costed Oracle

Who knew that’s what FCO actually stood for?  All that time we’ve been thinking it was simply about diplomats in far flung locations enjoying “unimaginable luxury” and getting up to who knows what.

Late in January, the FCO announced, to predictably widespread criticism, that it was intending to launch a new framework:

…  supporting the Cabinet Office Shared Service strategy … for the provision of Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) development, delivery and support services … 

The framework intends to have a limited number of vendors, for instance a number of Lots might be awarded to the same vendor. 

The scope intends to cover existing Oracle platforms in UK government departments … and to include upgrades and implementations of new Oracle versions for these existing platforms. It also intends to cover any move of a Department from a non-Oracle platform to an Oracle platform

The value of the framework is suggested to be £250m to £750m.  The notice is silent on framework duration but others have suggested a minimum of three years with an extension of one year.

Time clearly being of the essence, the first meeting for suppliers is planned for the 11th February.  Attendance is expected to be restricted, such will be the crush of entrants. Book now to avoid disappointment.

Parsing government procurement announcements, particularly those for frameworks, is challenging.  But here are a few points:

– Framework values are always made up.  When a framework is launched, there’s never any idea of what the take up will be (and it’s rarely mandatory that frameworks be used – and, even if it were, there are many overlapping frameworks that would mean you could use a different one). But what’s important is that the number is set as large as possible because that (a) ensures that the limit will never be breached, which would be terrible and (b) ensures that suppliers take notice and seek to bid.

– Frameworks offer you a chance to bid for future work, not a right to it.  So you compete, as a supplier, against generic requirements providing detailed pricing (that you can be held to) and get on the framework, and then you have to wait for business to arrive or you have to chase business which you will also have to compete for (against specific requirements). What’s missing in this notice is the statement “and here are the departments who have already committed to using this framework and this is why we came up with the range £250m – £750m).  I’m not feeling the love.

– This framework, unusually, says it will seek to limit the number of vendors.  It’s also unusual in that it says one supplier might win multiple lots.  Yah boo to the small business agenda one might say.  Other departments – the MoJ and FCO for instance – have sought to ensure diversity of supply by making it difficult (even impossible) for one supplier to win multiple lots in their ongoing IT procurements.  This framework seems to lessen competition and certainly takes an opposite view from G-Cloud’s hugely successful “Come one, come all” approach.

– Existing departmental Oracle systems (or any other ERP system for that matter) are almost always wrapped up in their wider outsourcing agreement.  So IBM run Defra’s services, Cap run those for HMRC and Logica runs the MoJ’s (though the MoJ is more complicated than that with its multiple divisions). So this framework only ‘works’ when an existing contract comes up for renewal and a department wants to separate its ERP from its other IT. I don’t see why a department would do that as its first choice – they’re struggling already with managing the splits into a dozen towers, brought together by a SIAM.  Only direction (read force) will change that – the equivalent of gov.uk in ERP. 
– Separately, the Cabinet Office Shared Service Strategy which targets savings of £400m-600m/year with full delivery expected by 2014.  This document was only published in December 2012. It includes this paragraph:
  1. Single Oracle ERP Platform. A number of customers included in ISSC 2 require
    an upgrade of their Oracle Release 11 ERP solutions. It is felt that, rather than allow
    departments to upgrade separately, this situation provides a unique opportunity to
    consolidate platforms and provide standard processes across the major Oracle-based

    A feasibility study will be commissioned to test whether the aspiration of government is
    realistic and the design will be based on a ‘prove why it cannot work for you’ approach
    rather than a ‘what would you like’ approach. This study will also look at Oracle
    departments who are not immediately in scope for ISSC 2 such as the Foreign and
    Commonwealth Office (FCO). This project will be managed as part of ISSC 2 until the
    completion of the feasibility study. 

I haven’t seen the results of a feasibility study that says such a consolidation is possible but one assumes the issuance of the FCO’s framework means that it’s already been proven. Otherwise why go to market?   The project plan in the strategy shows the feasibility study completing in about mid-February 2013 and implementation completing in December 2013 (that would suggest to me that the solution is already known – I don’t see anyone buying one, let alone building one by then otherwise)
-The scope includes “upgrades … implementations … moves from non-Oracle to an Oracle platform”?  Surely it should read “migrations to THE Oracle platform”.  The strategy also doesn’t say that the FCO will lead the delivery of a single Oracle platform (only that they will participate in the feasibility study) – though the notice does say that FCO are supporting the Cabinet Office.
– Elsewhere the strategy says that the current cost per head of Oracle services is £160, though the DWP achieve £89 (I have no insight as to whether these comparisons are truly like for like – the strategy notes comparing these things is challenging).  It goes on to say that one solution should save 40% and avoid £32m in upgrade costs to Oracle 12 (because there would only be one Oracle 12 in government).  It notes also that DWP have already completed their upgrade to Oracle 12.  So if DWP is the cheapest, and they have Oracle 12 already, are they not the obvious place to consolidate to?
– Cabinet Office recently conducted a review of existing and inflight frameworks. Some frameworks were kept (G-Cloud, PSN), some were stopped in their tracks (SIAM, G-Host).  Bill Crothers was quoted as saying: “This is a new approach to frameworks to procure ICT for central government. This approach will support goal of making it easier for all ICT suppliers, particularly with eye to SMEs, to do business with us.”
This new framework is, then, confusing, inconsistent with the recent framework review, the overall ICT strategy, the Shared Services Strategy and common sense.  
But it does potentially provide a route to consolidate away from multiple Oracle solutions (that exist today) to a single Oracle solution (that hopefully exists today – because building another one to satisfy everyone is never going to happen, not for £750m nor in 750 years).  And they certainly built Versailles in less time than that – though probably not for less money (estimates for the palace vary wildly from £1.5bn to £200bn)
It is, though, very hard to see how a true cost save is achieved any time soon if there is a long line of departments waiting for their turn to migrate to the new single Oracle system, each one wanting a tweak or a change every 5 lines of code let alone once you factor in the cost of data transition, re-working of departmental accounting, retraining of staff (and possibly redundancies on the assumption that one systems needs fewer people to operate).
That said, why wouldn’t you go to one system if you could?  Large banks rarely run their books on a country by country, business by business basis.  Cisco doesn’t have to send couriers to every corner of the world to get its financial results.  National Grid doesn’t have to ask each division to send a spreadsheet once a month with how much they’ve spent.  
The first question then, is which system?  The second is why consolidate to what you have, at a high and rising cost, rather than to something else at a lower and more stable cost?

– If the target per head cost of an Oracle-based system is the DWP’s £89, then the best way to get that price is to configure a system that is identical to the DWP’s and able to support other departments.  We could call it something like, oh, “the DWP Oracle ERP system”.  Let’s have a competition amongst suppliers to see who can look after the existing system (including all of the people and surrounding processes) and see if the cost can be brought down further.

– Getting from other, higher cost, Oracle solutions to DWP’s will not be free of charge and will certainly not be pain free.  Every department with Oracle will have configured theirs to be “just so” and will happily die in several ditches (over and over again) to protect their unique and absolutely required configuration.  So let’s be sure to add that cost in.

– And then let’s see what the ground up cost per head of an alternative solution is given that the migration costs are going to be there in either case.  I’d be surprised, I think, if it turned out to be as high as £89.

And then you need a line of departments (whatever the solution) ready to adopt the new system so that the cost per head target can be achieved and further economies of scale sought.  The last thing you need is lots of suppliers competing to supply a similar thing as they can never achieve the same economies of scale.

It would, of course, not surprise me to see this framework be marked for, ummm, ‘review’ and for it to disappear from view before too long.

Just 18 Months

Now that it’s out that Chris Chant is retiring a common phrase in articles is that he’s going after “just 18 months” running G-Cloud. It’s Chris’ style to leave quietly and, as I’ve known him, worked with him, and for him, for about a dozen years I thought I might recap some of the things he’s done, both in just 18 months as well as over the period I’ve known him.
G-Cloud has proved to be a hot topic in the world of government IT – and a little beyond – with attention increasing dramatically after Chris’ #unacceptable speech in October 2011. In this climate of openness, transparency, blogging and tweeting, I don’t think anyone has (ever) managed to be quite as open, provocative and engaging – nor respond to as many comments, articles, opinions and analyst reports – on as Chris has. He will be a hard act to follow. 
Some have already claimed, or at least thought, that he was only as open as he was because he knew he was going – and those same people usually refer to his twitter handle (@cantwaitogo) as evidence of that. I know they’re wrong – Chris has always been as open as he is now, it’s just that he has been able to take advantage of new channels recently to ensure the message gets out more widely. His twitter handle shows only that his spelling is as questionable as ever and refers to some volunteer work that he did at Ambue Ari (hence his leopard profile picture – apparently the Mario pictures were all copyrighted).  If anything, his post-retirement twitter handle, rather than being @gone, will be @cantwaitogoback.
In the just 18 months Chris ran G-Cloud he managed to design, develop and launch an entirely new approach within government procurement, aided only by a tiny team from departments and the Government Procurement Service, most of whom had day jobs as well. G-Cloud plainly leads the world in its thinking and its action. The second iteration, due in the next couple of weeks, will further extend that lead and provide a more flexible procurement platform whilst making it simple for those on the existing framework to transition.  In a while, we will look back and see 2012 as a pivotal year in the evolution of government IT, even though the changes orchestrated now will take some time to bed in.
But before there was even a procurement vehicle, Chris had to galvanise the inevitably disparate parts of government to want such a thing – a truly open, transparent, everything published and visible to all procurement catalogue. He had to bring people together to think about how it might work, get funding, get support from permanent secretaries and ministers, convince people to become foundation delivery partners, work with suppliers to shape it, persuade lawyers and commercial people to accept a radically slimmed down approach, convince SMEs to play a major part (70% of those on the framework are SMEs), figure out how to publish all supplier information (including prices – a first time ever), persuade people that rating suppliers not only made sense but was absolutely necessary and present endlessly to audiences inside and outside of government to help get the message over. On top of that he had to fight to convince those who said it couldn’t be done, that suppliers wouldn’t sign up for it and that customers wouldn’t buy from it. Creating change in government has never been easy and G-Cloud shows that, whilst that is still true, it can be done but that it takes enormous effort, huge commitment from a small number of individuals and relentless focus.
Alongside that Chris was breaking the mould in other areas – introducing public cloud email into the Cabinet Office (their first taste of their own dog food I am sure) and switching people away from expensive government standard devices to far cheaper off the shelf devices (showing an 80% cost saving). He also laid the groundwork for an entirely new approach to government web delivery by kicking off what became known as Alpha.gov and that will result in direct.gov being replaced a year or less from now.  Somewhere on this path he managed to become the 17th most influential person in UK IT (more to his own surprise than that of anyone else I’m sure).
When I first met Chris he was a tax man- not a career IT guy as some have said (actually Chris knows as much about IT as the average dormouse – something that has certainly counted in his favour as he sought simpler and simpler solutions). He went from there to delivering online transactions at the Inland Revenue (now HMRC) including PAYE the first time, upgrades to Self Assessment, Corporation Tax and so on. Since 2001, HMRC has had by far the largest take up of online transactions across government – they were the first to try out incentives (few will remember, perhaps, the £10 rebate for filing your Self Assessment online), the first to move to mandation (after the Carter report) and will likely be the first to get 100% take up if not already, then very soon. Chris also worked on or ran direct.gov.uk and a dozen other government websites as well as the the government gateway.  
In other roles, Chris has switched departments from 100% desktop to 100% laptop so allowing remote working and a reduction in carbon footprint, rolled out collaboration tools to support joint working, assured technology for the Olympics and many other things, not to mention loitered outside fish and chip shops counting the sacks of potatoes being delivered so that he could estimate sales and so, in turn, figure out how much tax the owner really should have been paying – them’s proper metrics them is.
And, along the way, he has routinely regaled his friends, colleagues, customers and suppliers with endless tall tales, mostly crap jokes, comments about the poor quality of football at Arsenal (and the significantly better quality at Tottenham), infectious enthusiasm for the latest gadgets (from ‘phones to cameras to televisions and beyond) and, until he switched to eating only carrots, was one of the finer dinner companions in the UK – certainly higher than the 17th most influential dinner companion in the UK I believe.  Not every day was a blast with Chris and he didn’t get everything right, but I’m hard pressed to remember the bad ones amongst the torrent of good ones.
If only others could accomplish as much in such a period as Chris has managed to, in just 18 months.  As wiser folks than me have said, success has 1000 fathers (and failure is an utter b*stard).   Chris will be missed by many though doubtless some, particularly those who were on the receiving end of some of his more explosive blasts, will be pleased that he’s gone, hoping that the cloud will become what they always thought it was, vapour.  It won’t.
I’m sure the world of Government IT will be a slightly quieter place come the beginning of May, but I am confident that few of the changes Chris has kicked off will be unwound. And some will be reinforced even more strongly by the tiny team with the day jobs – they’re still there and will be working just as hard to support Chris’ successor, Denise McDonagh.