If the Government is to meet its proposed target of spending 50 per cent of its ICT procurement budget through SMEs, it must start making the most of the initiatives it has available, says Peter Groucutt, Managing Director of Databarracks.
A recent report* from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) stated that the government is not doing enough to provide SMEs with the opportunity to win public sector business, citing that currently only 10 per cent of Government spending is going through SMEs.
Groucutt states that if the Government is serious about achieving its targets, the weaknesses preventing it from reaching its goals must be assessed:
“The report from the PAC has highlighted the need for action. With targets quite clearly failing to be met, why are definitive actions not being taken to ensure more IT procurement is going through SMEs?
“Historically, cloud adoption amongst public sector organisations has been slow due to concerns around security. Cloud services represent a major change to way we provision and procure IT, and naturally adoption of these services can lead to some disruption.
“The Government recognised this and sought to introduce a framework that eases, or in some cases bypasses, these early exploratory phases by qualifying providers according to a certain standard. As a result, the G-Cloud framework was born.”
Groucutt continued: “G-Cloud is designed to challenge the oligopoly that exists around IT procurement by opening up government departments to over 800 pre-approved suppliers; 80 per cent of which are innovative SMEs who can provide agile and flexible IT solutions.
“Recent figures from G-Cloud report that 63 per cent of its contracts over the last 18 months went to SMEs. After a reserved start the framework has picked up momentum and people are seeing the benefits of these innovative services.
“On paper the benefits are obvious but the report from PAC suggests that in reality, many people still aren’t aware of them. It has to be a priority for the Government to identify why this is. The framework has proven to be sufficiently robust but many government departments are still unwilling to leave the comfort and safety of legacy contracts with big SIs. G-Cloud is reducing costs for IT services and increasing spend with SMEs. The easiest way to drive public sector IT spend to SMEs is to increase the use of G-Cloud from £44.7m in sales to really make a dent in the estimated £7bn central government annual spend.
“We need to set a firm deadline – the original target of spending 25 per cent on SMEs by 2015 has changed to 50 per cent, without a new deadline for reaching that target being set. We need to stop moving the goal posts and make a concerted effort to change the way the sector consumes it’s IT.
“We also need to see a real push towards educating public sector departments about initiatives like G-Cloud, increasing awareness of the possible cost savings and efficiencies without the need to compromise front line services. Figures show that those procuring their IT through the CloudStore are realising the benefits of working with SMEs – we need to make sure everyone else realises this too.
Groucutt concluded: “Such initiatives will not only provide government departments with access to an array of innovative ICT services, but it will play a critical role in meeting their 50 per cent target.”