Why government procurers need to embrace small tech suppliers

A prominent business journalist has outlined how government agencies are failing to embrace new technologies…...

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A prominent business journalist has outlined how government agencies are failing to embrace new technologies that could deliver much-needed procurement transformation.

Writing for Raconteur, Charles Orton-Jones cites several glaring examples of obsolete but still-used government procedures. Instead of using the internet, for example, the DVLA will send people who want to renew their car tax a paper V11 reminder letter containing a 16-digit code that must then be entered onto their website. In an age when people are using apps to hail minicabs and write their shopping lists, too many government departments seem trapped in the 1950s.

And according to Orton-Jones, the key problem is the government’s procurement process. He cites software developer Paul Jones’ account of it, that individual civil servants charged with strategic sourcing, sourcing savings and supply relationship management frequent only have about 50% of the picture as to what is needed. This partial understanding is then put to suppliers in the form of a request for proposal. However, as the supplier also doesn’t know what’s required, the communication is only 50% efficient, resulting in the supplier only having a 25% understanding of the client’s real needs.

To compound matters, the Crown Commercial Service’s digital procurement platform, Crown Marketplace, was suddenly cancelled. This genuine innovation was designed to provide optimal guidance in negotiating contracts with private sector suppliers and end 20-year contracts with no escape clause. But this highly innovative, Amazon-style procurement platform simply bit the dust, a demise which many companies described as “disgraceful”, “appalling” and “ridiculous.”

There do remain some examples of the positive use of tech, such as HMRC’s Making Tax Digital initiative for digitising tax returns, and the sharing of procurement expertise in the Key Cities Group. This latter product transmits knowledge across 24-mid-sized cities in England and Wales to allow procurement professionals to collaborate seamlessly.

But as Orton-Jones concludes, the biggest leap still awaits – the ditching of the government mind-set that favours big suppliers and an embrace of smaller, more innovative tech companies instead.

Ed Cross

Ed founded Odesma in 2014 with the explicit intent of creating a new kind of procurement consultancy founded entirely on cloud principles. Deploying best-of-breed subject matter experts alongside the best on demand technology to deliver rapid and effective change for customers.

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