The Government Procurement Service (GPS) is planning to follow in the footsteps of the Cabinet Office's G-Cloud initiative, by considering the launch of an online catalogue for the public sector to purchase commodity software.
Such a procurement tool would take inspiration from the G-Cloud's CloudStore, which allows government departments to browse, compare and purchase public cloud services online.
With rumours of a G-Store for all government IT purchases, both on premise and in the cloud, having circulated in the past, the news is likely to be seen as the beginning of the government extending the G-Cloud model to other areas of procurement.
According to GPS, the new online store of off-the-shelf software could be worth up to £215 million of public sector spend by 2017.
"We are still in the planning stages of Commodity Software procurement and no formal decisions have been made. However, our main objectives are to develop a procurement vehicle that delivers long-term, sustainable procurement savings and transparency in price that is easily accessible for government and customers across the UK public sector," said GPS.
"The proposed Commodity Software procurement is intended to provide:
a transparent online electronic catalogue for commodity software products and commoditised services (potentially adopting the existing CloudStore model); and
a solution enabling customer organisations to procure more complex commodity software based services and solutions through focused competition
"We are currently engaging with customers and will be formally engaging the market to get comprehensive feedback on the optimal operating model and lot structure in order to shape the procurement and make sure it delivers the best value for money. Further information will be available in due course."
By providing like-for-like comparisons and transparent pricing in an online tool that is readily available to all of the public sector, GPS will be hoping that government departments will be able to drive efficiencies in IT spend.
The G-Cloud's CloudStore has suffered a number of issues in the past, with some users complaining about poor user experience and limited functionality. However, a recent launch of the latest version of CloudStore seems to have ironed out many of the issues.
Also, the Major Project Authority's latest annual report, which assesses the viability of the government's 'big projects', urged urgent action on the G-Cloud. It gave the project an Amber/Red rating, which means "successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas."
The report cited getting departments to change their culture in terms of approach to ICT buying as one of its main concerns, which could also prove to be a hurdle for GPS with the online commodity software store.