The Digital Marketplace Contenders, 7: Fordway, Godalming

Dec 10, 2015

In the latest in our series looking at small, promising new entrants to the UK public sector tech supply chain, we meet the MD of IT services and cloud infrastructure specialist Fordway, Richard Blanford

Tell us about your company and the value proposition, Mr Blanford.

We set up Fordway 24 years ago to provide specialist expertise to help medium to large organisations deliver IT infrastructure transformation projects. Five years ago, we made a big investment in infrastructure, staff and training so we could provide managed cloud services, as well; we offer all the classic services plus identity management and authentication, which I believe is unique to us.

Cloud now provides just under half our total revenues, and is the fastest growing division of the company. We add new services when we identify a gap in the market, so last year we introduced service management and monitoring to help organisations manage a mix of cloud services from different providers.

We have clients across the public sector, including BIS, Brent Council, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire and Barnsley College, among others. We also work across the private and not for profit sectors; one of our most exciting projects has been providing cloud services for one of the engineering consortia delivering key infrastructure projects for Crossrail.

Great overview, thanks. So why are you going on to The Digital Marketplace? What do you expect to get out of it? Why now?

We’ve been providing services through G-Cloud since it began, winning quite a few contracts, and I think it’s getting better with each iteration. It’s definitely important for us to be on the framework. We refresh our offering each time, so for G-Cloud 7 we’ve added a Cloud Intermediation Service to help organisations plan and manage their move to cloud. It might include using our cloud services as a staging point on the way to public cloud; we have strong relationships with public cloud providers, so we can provide a single point of contact during the move. It’s really flexible, so organisations can pick and choose the elements they need to complement their in-house skills, which wouldn’t have been possible with earlier iterations.

Most organisations who’ve used G-Cloud are really positive about it, but I think there are still a lot of people in the public sector who’ve not heard of the Digital Marketplace. Central government is doing its best to get the word out with things like roadshows and, of course, through the media, and so I hope we’ll see a growing interest as people realise it really does cut the cost of procurement.

How did you find the process of applying? 

It’s getting easier with each iteration, which is a function of both an improved, simplified process and our familiarity with it. Applying for the first couple of iterations of G-Cloud was very tedious and time-consuming, but now that services can be moved across between iterations and answers are generally check boxes it’s much simpler.

A word of caution to any prospective providers: getting onto the Digital Marketplace is only the start! Business doesn’t just come to you, you have to actively get out and market to the public sector that you are on it, and, in many cases, educate your prospective clients how to use it.

Procurement departments don’t seem to like using Digital Marketplace very much, I believe, because it upsets their ‘traditional’ tender based procurement process they are comfortable with.

OK, interesting. But is the cloud a viable delivery mechanism for UK public services or not, in your opinion?

We believe it is, and a recent survey showed that around a third of public bodies support moving services to the cloud – which is well beyond the ‘early adopters’ phase. However, local government is lagging behind central government. I don’t think this is a lack of interest. It’s partly because it provides a mix of services, whereas most central government departments are only responsible for one thing - and partly because the guys there need a compelling event to drive a move to cloud: if something’s working well and budgets are tight, why change it?

The trigger for that could be the latest round of budget cuts, or the end of an outsourcing contract. We’ve worked with several councils where the end of a contract has been the trigger. But a successful move still needs strong leadership and the right political climate.

Thanks, Richard, and good luck on G-Cloud 7!

To find out more about this G-Cloud-7 Digital Contender, go here

We are looking for other companies entering the Digital Marketplace and would love to feature your experiences in this new on-going editorial series. Please get in touch with us here to kick start process:

(c) 2015

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