A New ‘Data and Application Solutions Framework’ for the Public Sector
Our Strategic Adviser Jos Creese writes about why this is the right time for the Data and Application Solutions Framework.
For many reasons the public sector is having to review its legacy IT application estate. Some of this is just about the vulnerabilities and restrictions of using out of date software, or the inflexible and expensive contracts which underpin them.
But it is also to do with the emergence of new models of IT provisioning, such as cloud, which offer big benefits in terms of modern, flexible, innovative, low-cost and quick-to-deploy IT solutions.
Currently, many public service organisations (and their CIOs) feel trapped in a cycle of complex, resource-hungry and time-consuming software upgrades for their legacy IT estates, with limitations in functionality and deployment of software tools that just make them no longer fit for purpose. Yet extricating an organisation from the binds of old software is not easy, since procurement cycles and cost of change can impose significant hurdles.
The frustration of this bind is one of the reasons for a significant fall in IT outsourcing popularity and the rise of the Chief Digital (or Transformation) Officer, to break through current IT barriers. In the public sector, drivers such as devolution, health and social care integration, along with the need for improved data exploitation in general, are making the risks of not changing IT systems much greater than the risks of transitioning to newer IT architectures.
It is the risk advantage, as much as the obvious benefits in cost and functionality, that make it essential for the public sector in particular to tackle legacy IT that holds back true digital operation.
The benefits of the Data and Application Solutions framework
This is no doubt a key factor in why the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is launching a new framework for Data and Application and Solutions (DAS framework), reflecting the changing IT needs and opportunities of the public sector. This framework will combine two existing frameworks (RM1059 and RM1042, if you are interested!), into one new structure. But there is more at stake than this.
First of all, the Data and Application Solutions framework has a more segmented structure than (say) G-Cloud, with sections for Local Government, Health and Social Care, Police and Education services in particular, yet with the flexibility for buyers to acquire solutions from any category, regardless of where they work. It also supports on-premise as well as cloud solutions.
Secondly, the DAS framework has been developed in consultation with both suppliers and buyers, who have, it seems, made similar requests for greater flexibility in Ts and Cs. For example, with this new framework, contracts can last for up to 7 years, unlike the current G-Cloud framework. This is especially important for more complex software-based transformation, where both suppliers and clients need space to innovate and to adapt as developments progress.
More importantly, this new framework is particularly designed for the procurement of more complex and innovative technology solutions, combining professional services with software to assist implementation programmes.
For example, it is expected to include tools for data analytics, artificial intelligence and robotics, along with more traditional applications such as ERP, case management and specialist ‘line of business’ applications designed for each sector. These software products can then, (in theory at least), be blended with hardware and professional services to create truly transformational solutions.
Few will doubt the need for or intentions of this new DAS framework, and local government and health services in particular should now find out more and prepare their procurement teams for its use. But its adoption will also benefit from continued CCS and the Government Digital Service’s (GDS) support and advice to local and national public services, to help them to take advantage of the new framework.
If nothing else, the Data and Application Solutions framework offers a simpler, integrated and broader way of procuring complex software solutions, complementing the G-Cloud framework. And, if it delivers on its promises, it should also create a new, broad and flexible base that will stimulate and support digital innovation across the public sector.