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What does techUK’s three point plan mean for SMEs?

By Dave Worsell, Managing Director of GovDelivery Europe

techuk-logo-35x400-pinkI’m proud to have been part of techUK’s Public Sector Board (PSB) operations committee during the creation of their Three Point Plan to transform public services.  As Managing Director of GovDelivery Europe, an SME supplier of Software as a Service (SaaS) digital communication services exclusively for government bodies, I’ve experienced many of the challenges of working with government both in the UK and across the world.

Having been elected to the techUK PSB last year I was involved in the early discussions on how the tech industry could better engage with government.  I was relieved to discover that no matter how large or small your business, engaging with government can be a very difficult, expensive, frustrating  yet highly rewarding endeavor – if you get the strategy right.

While there has been significant progress in the government’s shift towards digital by default, I believe we need much greater scale and pace if we are to deliver the level of public service transformation that these technologies offer.

It’s easy to place blame on the red tape and inefficiencies within government and vice versa with suppliers, but this solves nothing.  As an industry we must do more to work together with government to deliver valuable solutions that provide demonstrable value to the UK tax payer.

Something has to change.

The techUK Three Point Plan was developed from feedback gathered as part of survey we conducted with UK civil servants. It was further refined to reflect findings of the recent industry study by the OFT.  As a result, the plan is based on facts and data that identify a number of areas where we as the UK tech industry can begin to rebuild trust and confidence in the way the largest supplier right down to the smallest SME works with government. So what does this mean to an SME like GovDelivery?

  1. Better engagement – While the government’s SME agenda has already helped SME’s broaden their footprint in Government we’re still struggling to get involved in the early stages of large government projects.  Under the Three Point Plan, all suppliers, large and small, should be given the opportunity to engage with government during policy development to highlight how new technology can support the government’s strategic initiatives.  While it may be naive to believe government will engage directly with multiple SMEs during the early stages of projects, SMEs can bring to the table unique perspectives on leveraging agile development and disruptive technologies to meet a project’s goals.  Having broader engagement of this kind also allows SMEs to form partnerships with larger suppliers who will value the innovation and agility we provide.  Our recent experience of working in partnership with Capgemini on a successful business tax education project for HMRC demonstrates how an agile approach using SME innovation has resulted in £20m revenue benefit.
  2. Better information – For all government suppliers there is nothing more frustrating than having to provide essentially the same information in different formats depending on the framework or department you are working with.  For an SME this administrative burden can be crippling especially when you have to repurpose information into different formats.  Is this data then ever used again?

    Our experience of the G-Cloud framework reporting has illustrated how this process can work efficiently once the initial hiccups are resolved.  With standardised, clear and transparent reporting data for all suppliers, SME suppliers will be able to quickly differentiate themselves from the competition if their service delivers.  This approach clearly “levels the playing field” and should give government more confidence in awarding business to SME suppliers.

  3. More innovation – From personal experience this is the area where I think SMEs will benefit the most.  If we are to transform government’s understanding of new technology we need a forum to showcase capabilities and innovation.  The current supplier environment really doesn’t support this.

    The SME agenda was a step in the right direction, but it definitely doesn’t help get new products in front of buyers so SMEs could demonstrate “the art of the possible.”  For SMEs with a cool and valuable technology, cold-calling and canvassing government is a very tough slog.  We’ve done it.  It takes time, patience and lots of hard work.  Some of the best technologies I’ve seen never make it as funding dries up long before a risk-adverse government adopts the product. We’ve participated in a couple of techUK “Innovation Den” sessions and strongly advocate the value they deliver.  The concept is simple, we were given a 10 minute “pitch” to showcase our service to a panel of public sector organisations based on a specific theme or engineered to solve specific issues.  This format really works, and we’ve won new business as a result.

It’s still early days for the Three Point Plan, but it feels like a step in the right direction.  If we truly hope to deliver better public services at a greater value to citizens, then tech suppliers and government have to work together in an environment that encourages innovation and builds trust.  This plan is a good place to start that journey.