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TechUK issues six-point plan to help the government work better with SMEs

Technology association applauds government's efforts to engage with SMEs, but says more must be done to make it easier for smaller firms to do business with the public sector

TechUK has published a six-point plan outlining steps the government should take to increase public awareness of its various procurement tools, particularly those favoured by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The technology association said it is broadly supportive of the work the government is doing to ramp up the number of public sector deals being awarded to SMEs, but there is still room for improvement.

To this end, the organisation has set out six areas it would like addressed to level the playing field for SMEs when competing against larger firms for government deals.

These include addressing the barriers that prevent SMEs winning public sector business, while working with civil servants to make them more aware of the benefits that drawing on the skills and expertise of smaller firms can bring.  

Furthermore, TechUK would like to see Crown Commercial Service (CCS) conduct a review into the Cabinet Office’s SME panel to ensure the work it does is in keeping with its original aims of helping smaller firms secure public sector business.

The organisation said it would also be open to working with CCS on a national level to increase awareness of government procurement tools, such as Contract Finder and Mystery Shopper.

The latter scheme was introduced to allow government suppliers, and particularly SMEs, to raise concerns about the way procurements are being conducted, while the former is geared towards making it easier for suppliers to uncover details about new government deals.

Given the number of deals awarded to SMEs via the G-Cloud procurement framework, TechUK called on the Government Digital Service (GDS) and CCS to ensure the initiative continues to receive their full support in future too.

G-Cloud, TechUK added, should also serve as a blueprint for CCS and GDS when it comes to rolling out procurement frameworks for non-cloud services.

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Giving SMEs a helping hand

TechUK’s call to action comes on the back of the government’s pledge to award 33% of procurement spend to SMEs by 2020. Currently, this figure is reported to be at around 26%.

Even so, a poll carried out by the association, featuring responses from 171 British SMEs, revealed nearly all of those questioned (96%) felt the government could do more to improve the selling experience for SMEs serving the public sector.

Indeed, 86% of respondents felt civil servants could make better use of procurement hubs, such as the Digital Marketplace, and that too few are aware of the existence of tools like Mystery Shopper and Contract Finder.

Naureen Khan, associate director for the public sector at TechUK, said while there are more ways than ever for smaller firms to access government contracts, there is still some work to do.

“Our survey confirms government is on the right track, and SMEs are overwhelmingly positive about the government’s new target and G-Cloud is the clear star of the show. However, there is more work to be done,” she said.

“The next phase needs to focus on raising awareness and use of important tools such as G-Cloud, Contracts Finder and Mystery Shopper. Government and industry need to work together to enable and support better collaboration through the supply chain.”

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