35% of SaaS suppliers have not published a Service Definition

Based on analysis of G-Cloud 9 we can safely assume a further 25% have a document that has no useful information

This article explains why a Service Definition document is a vital part of your G-Cloud marketing strategy

How to optimise the contents of your Service Definition is covered under another article coming soon

At the time of writing 792 (35%) of the 2,239 SaaS suppliers on G-Cloud 10 had not loaded a Service Definition. Many more have a Service Definition that conveys very little or no information beyond that which is already on the face of the catalogue. Detailed analysis we carried out on G-Cloud 9, 7-months into the life of that framework, the comparable figures were that 28% of SaaS vendors had no Service Definition but a further 35% had published a document that provided no useful additional information. For example, it is a very common approach to copy the Summary, Features and Benefits from the catalogue into a document and load this as a Service Definition, this is pointless repetition.

For the majority of suppliers, a Service Definition is essential in winning business on G-Cloud.

It is part of the Guidance for Buyers that they review and compare services to their requirements using information on the catalogue, this is where the Service Definition has its impact. Buyers may contact suppliers in the process:

You can contact suppliers to ask them to explain their service description, terms and conditions, pricing or service definition documents.

You must not negotiate with suppliers about the details of their service. If it isn’t in their service description, you can’t ask a question about it.

Always keep a record of any conversations you have with suppliers.

Absence of a Service Definition is technically not a non-conformance, as this is allowed under the terms and conditions of the Framework. But for the majority of suppliers planning a campaign to generate sales to the public sector through G-Cloud it is an essential tool. This is the document that allows you to differentiate your service from your competitors and to anticipate and answer buyer’s questions.

The advice from Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is:

You don’t have to provide a service definition document but the lack of one would severely impair the quality of your submission in the eyes of the buyer.

In conversations with the senior management running the frameworks at CCS, they are shocked and dismayed that suppliers have yet to follow that advice or to work out for themselves the necessity to provide Service Definitions in support of their sales effort. But it is not their role to compel suppliers to succeed.

Then it is surprising to find how many suppliers without a Service Definition on the G-Cloud 9 catalogue actually made sales, some over £250,000 of sales on that iteration of the framework. But this should not be seen as a signal that the document is dispensable for the majority. The anomaly is explicable and as the circumstances do not apply to most SaaS vendors, those designing an active sales campaign need to ensure they prepare a Service Definition.

G-Cloud 9 SaaS sales analysis

Number of vendors with and without a published Service Definition (SD)

(sales intervals arithmetically annualised assuming 7/12ths in first 7 months)

SMEWith SD% of lineNo SD% of lineTotal
Over £250k2878%822%36
£100k - £250k1986%314%22
£1 - £100k7182%1618%87
SME sub total11881%2719%145
All vendors (incl. SME)
Over £250k4773%1727%64
£100k - £250k3186%514%36
£1 - £100k9380%2421%117
All vendors sub total17179%4621%217
Vendors with no sales109271%44629%1538

While 80% of vendors which have had some sales success on G-Cloud 9 have some form of Service Definition, supporting the argument that it is an important attribute in pursuit of success, how do we explain the 20% who make sales with no Service Definition? To answer this question I reviewed the offering of all 46 suppliers that did not publish a Service Definition:

  • 40% have sales under previous iterations where they will have published a Service Definition
  • Several are reselling globally marketed, ubiquitous products
  • A further subset have essential niche products well known to their public sector customer base
  • Some had pre-existing contracts with customers who told them to get onto G-Cloud for a variety of reasons

The facts show that sales can be made without or (by extension) with a very poor Service Definition. However, unless you are in one of the classes of vendor similar to the above list (e.g. already a monopoly supplier, a global brand, accessing G-Cloud as expedient with selling happening by other means), the Service Definition is one of the most important features on your catalogue listing.

In formulating your successful sales strategy ignore the anomalies and adopt the CCS advice to help the buyers select your service by anticipating their needs and providing relevant answers in the Service Definition.

“Optimising the Service Definition” is considered further in another Insight Article.

This significant flaw, exhibited by a majority of SaaS vendors, is easily remedied at any time. A supplier can ask for a Service Definition to be published (or updated). There may be a request to prove that it is the same service as already listed on the catalogue, while that should not be an obstacle, you may want to take some advice to ensure the upgrade goes smoothly.