March 17, 2014

The Agony of Government Procurement

An interesting tale on the BBC’s Today programme last week as an SME described the agony of being part of the Government’s procurement programme, something which no-one can describe as being Agile whatsoever.

Ironically enough, the Storm team itself is just ploughing through the process to list its Agile courses on the Government’s G-Cloud system and the hours of preparation it entails is incredible.

So we have a great deal of sympathy with one of the contributors on the programme, Sara Murray, the founder of Buddi which develops personal location tags (many for the justice system). Murray says that providing IT equipment to the Government as a small company is a nightmare.

This comes at a time when the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has strongly criticised how the Government goes about outsourcing contracts.

Murray described how her small team were not only expected to put on the same show as a major company which might have to put up a pitch team of 60 people, but also to make numerous presentations and perhaps worst of all, to share valuable intellectual property with fellow bidders.

She accepted that the Government needs to think nationally and therefore a supplier must be able to cope with scale, but she said that the US Government has a system which funds the use of pilot schemes, allowing individuals to test the viability of equipment before it is offered on a national scale.

Asked if she complained about her treatment through the procurement process, she said she voiced her feelings regularly and was told to quieten down, and get on with it. She also said her small team was mocked over the number of roles they had to assume within the pitching process (common within a small company).

Asked by the Today programme presenter if she sympathised with the civil servants who felt that they could not risk a contract awarded to a small company going wrong, she replied that all the recent problems with Government and IT contracts had involved huge companies, not SMEs.

Now, you can’t say fairer than that!

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