Will the government’s ICT implementation plan finally lock on to the SME solutions it misses?

By David Bicknell

The  government has the potential to leverage its huge buying power in the ICT marketplace. However, the government’s procurement of ICT has in many cases failed to deliver economies of scale and failed to deliver value for money to the taxpayer.

So that is why the latest ICT implementation plan has an objective for the reform of government procurement by centralising common goods and services spend by funding improvements in technology, processes and government wide procurement resources to better manage total procurement spend and government wide standards. 

The government insists it is therefore committed to become a single and effective ICT customer, leveraging buying power whilst remaining flexible on how it procures.

As part of that process the  government says it will create a more open, transparent and competitive ICT marketplace embracing open standards and open source that will remove barriers to SME participation in public sector procurement to create a fairer and more competitive marketplace.

It is important that these barriers to SME participation are removed, because these smaller innovative companies have solutions that the private sector recognises and which will pay to acquire, but which the government seems to miss.

One, ChangeBASE, which specialises in automated application analysis, remediation and conversion for platforms including Windows 7 and 8, Internet Explorer 8 and 9, Terminal Server/Remote Desktop Session Host, VDI, and Application Virtualisation, has just been snapped up by Quest Software  to help Quest become a single source to help organisations take advantage of technology changes to benefit both IT and users alike.

Another UK SME, Procession, continues to try and make the government aware of its technology for the creation of business application software that is both rapidf and agile. Procession’s CEO David Chassels recently wrote to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude to try and engage with the government in its goal of becoming a better and more intelligent buyer of ICT. It also plans to speak at a forthcoming “teacamp”, the latest of a series of informal meeting places to stimulate ideas and discussion about government work in ICT.

A third, BCS, provides a global universal library subscription service that provides monthly audit data analysis and optimisation for devices, making audit data much easier to manage and understand. It has also created a carbon footprint library that enables organisations to establish a desktop estate baseline for CO2 information so that they can establish and manage software influence on CO2 output and reduce their carbon offset purchase requirements.

There are countless other SMEs offering innovative solutions to help deliver value for money for the taxpayer that the government still probably has no knowledge about, and which have long since given government procurement up as a lost cause.  The  government says it will create a more open, transparent and competitive ICT marketplace that embraces open standards and open source and that removes barriers to SME participation in public sector procurement.

As they say, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

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3 responses to “Will the government’s ICT implementation plan finally lock on to the SME solutions it misses?

  1. Whilst I am sure that the large SIs have not helped and may as suggested have influenced, at the end of the day the buck stops with Permanent Secretaries and Ministers. Their lack of business knowledge of the commercial pressures and understanding the “loyalties” that large and dominant vendors rely on with their ecosystems of big SIs has been at the core of the problem.
    The day OGC closed its R&D unit was the day that the policy became “we rely on contractors to do the best for the taxpayer”……hard to believe but true. You can’t blame suppliers for pushing their case but to actually have a policy of leaving core technology decisions to them was verging on irresponsible?
    I have spoken with some SIs (remember the “S” stands for service) and they do what customers want. I believe they would welcome Government becoming the intelligent buyer with an associated improved procurement process (large technology vendors might not) and they will respond accordingly to revise their commercial model. The ones that do not will not get the work and then they will have to account to shareholders….. so it will happen…eventually.

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  2. This is all good stuff, but

    Making statements about engaging with SME’s from a Government ITC perspective is one thing. I see nothing about the changes which will be required from the perspective of the procurement perspective.

    If the actual procurement process and entry requirements do not change then any such initiatives and good intentions will fail to yield the desired outcomes i.e. more engagement with innovative companies and value for money for the tax payer. VFM is a simple arithmetic proposition pay X for something or 10X for the same something. The main issue is around perceived risk. Take the National Program for IT as an example. The program as it was ‘defined’ by Richard Granger was predicated on the use of large SI with ‘deep pockets’ who could be deliver first and get paid later or then ‘sued’ for delivery failure. We all know how that went and to my knowledge, no monies have been recovered to date. Companies which turnover £200million+ have nearly gone bust and required bailout as part of this program and we are still waiting 7 years down track. So we put £6+Billion at risk by adopting this particular approach and procurement route.

    The Solution is not Agile or Open Source per se, these are mere tools and do not guarantee anything. We can already see that the same usual suspects are now speaking about Agile and Open Source as if they were a way of life.

    It’s a step in the right direction but with fundamental change in procurement approach change from a VFM perspective will not follow. The current leopards will simply change their collective spots and the status quo will be maintained.

    I would ask Government from whom it gets is advice before such proclamations are made? Oh wait, could it be the same SI’s and consultancies….

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