Public Sector Focus

20.03.17

Your G-Cloud experience is as good as the vendor you use

James Passingham, chief technical officer at Foehn, says that with G-Cloud’s increasing popularity and standardised offerings, it’s vital to choose a provider that also delivers expert advice and technical support. 

While the G-Cloud is set for version 9 launch in May, attention in some quarters still focuses on the digital marketplace’s deficiencies – with 77% of purchases from central government, uptake is slow in certain areas of the public sector, such as local government.  

Yet G-Cloud has already racked up sales of almost £1.7bn. It’s provided UK government and public sector buyers with an efficient way to procure state-of-the-art software capabilities from leading vendors, tailored to pre-agreed specifications and terms and conditions. 

The majority of buyers are either new to G-Cloud or trying new cloud-based solutions for the first time. So vendors on G-Cloud must make their solutions easily searchable. Whilst the search function, interface and other aspects of the marketplace have been changed incrementally over time, G-Cloud product specifications and terms and conditions are largely standardised, so effective advice and technical support to buyers is becoming a differentiator between vendors – and more important than ever. 

In other words, public procurement teams and buyers’ experience of this platform is only as good as the G-Cloud vendor they use.  

Let’s not forget that many G-Cloud providers like Foehn have been G-Cloud accredited suppliers since the marketplace’s inception in 2012 (and in Foehn’s case, pioneered cloud telephony years before that). These dynamic and proven suppliers have the know-how to advise and support a procurement team that is putting its toe in the cloud water – or deal with any teething troubles at implementation down the line.  

Our experience is that, faced by tough budget choices, local government organisations are making smarter use of G-Cloud products – backed by expert vendor know-how and customer support – to streamline the ways that they work or deliver local services and further strip out costs. Sometimes they are using this combination to fundamentally rethink it and change the game on their business technology investments and running costs. 

We worked with Boston Borough Council which, like every other authority, has felt the ratchet of rising service demands and declining funding. It turned to Foehn’s cloud-based open-source telephony to establish more responsive virtual call centre environments and is now making £30,000 annual savings since 2015 on its previous on-premise telephony system. 

Aside of the streamlining G-Cloud procurement process, another impressive aspect of the work is the configurable call centre interfaces and system refinements that were delivered to its ICT team by Foehn technicians. The council call centre team leaders have gained the ability to adjust the cloud telephony platform to incoming call levels and allowed them to better allocate their staff resources, based on real-time reporting of traffic patterns, calls handled and call waiting queues. 

The combination of G-Cloud procurement and Foehn’s cloud-based open source telephony expertise has also helped the council services complaint investigation body, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), to transform its workplaces and simplify processing of casework.

A publicly-funded organisation with approximately 200 staff, the LGO conducts more than 11,000 different investigations every year, with its different teams always having to balance the handling of incoming enquiries with thorough and timely investigations for complainants. 

Through the G-Cloud, the LGO ICT department procured a new Wide Area Network (WAN) infrastructure, hosted PBX with interactive voice response (IVR) capabilities, and call centre management platform, implemented in conjunction with Foehn. The ombudsman’s ICT team, with ongoing technical support from the company, is achieving 30% savings on the phone and network system costs while it also has 50% faster network connections. 

Workplace flexibility is being transformed too: LGO call centre staff at the Coventry headquarters have gained control of incoming calls. Office personnel are adopting more flexible working practices while mobile investigation personnel working from home now have the flexibility to take calls from colleagues, third parties and the public, irrespective of their location. 

The G-Cloud product is a remarkable government technology success story with feature-rich software products transforming public service capabilities. But the relentless pressure of budget reductions, enforced collaborations and staff reorganisations is nevertheless leaving public sector ICT teams wanting expert vendor implementation and technical support down the line. Your overall G-Cloud experience is only as good as the vendor you use. 

View the Local Government Ombudsman case study and get more information on delivering better for less with modern cloud based phone systems. 

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