SMEs – we need to talk
The following is a post from Chris Chant, Executive Director in the Cabinet Office working as Programme Director for the G-Cloud initiative.
I said in my last blog post that the government is changing the way we buy and use IT. We have trained our suppliers and ourselves to think that we need big, complex solutions to complicated problems; which has meant that all too often it’s only the big, complex suppliers that get a look in.
We are changing all this. We are giving SMEs and ourselves a chance to work together by levelling the playing field for all IT suppliers. This won’t happen overnight and we won’t get it right first time. This is new territory for many departments and very few are experienced at handling this new way of working. I think it’s fair to say that many just can’t see how this can happen yet though many know it must.
First off government has realised that it’s not that different. From now on if government wants some IT it needs to do what everyone else does and look at what’s already available, not just what we can pay to have built for us and not just what we are used to doing. It will be uncomfortable, uncharted territory for many but it must be done. It is unacceptable for things to remain the same. So if you are a SME and you have a SaaS or other cloud service that government might use – we want to know about it.
Second we are going to use open standards wherever we can, make as much government data as open as possible and buy IT on pay-as-we-go or short term contracts. Some contracts may be longer but there must be a break option, in my view, at no later than 12 months. Of course organisations will offer lower prices for longer lock-ins but,as I’ve said before, the cost of being unable to exit will almost always outweigh the savings. This will give all suppliers a chance to offer services to us, keep the market dynamic and will let us move from one supplier to another as better services and offers emerge – which means those companies that are agile enough (frequently in the SME market place) can compete more successfully for our business.
Lastly, tendering for government business is a pain for businesses. We have to comply with EU law, but the reason the law is in place is to keep things fair for all suppliers and not give government an excuse to create processes so complex that in the end only the biggest companies can invest in understanding them.
We’ve started to change that. We have made the G-Cloud procurement a lot easier to understand and get through. G-Cloud has no massively complex set of requirements that you need a PhD to understand. Just use the forms to tell us what services you have – all the documentation is online and we’ve written a simple guide if you have never worked with us before. In fact if you haven’t we really want you to apply.
We can do more and we will do more. The GDS Innovation team is opening up new channels for suppliers to work with us, especially on small projects. We can and will make procurement even simpler for everyone.
So, if you are an SME, any supplier that’s never worked with government, or an existing supplier that “gets” cloud – you are the type of people we need to work with the deliver the savings all of us need. Come on, talk to us.