Innovation at heart of procurement

Partnership between government and industry can spark the innovation necessary to deliver improved public sector procurement, says Naureen Khan, head of public sector at techUK


The power of smart technology to transform our lives, businesses and government is now well understood. However, the process for selecting and purchasing the right technology solutions has often not moved forward as quickly as the technology being procured.

An Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report highlighted some key areas for improvement for public sector procurement of IT. techUK believes that innovation should be at the heart of best practice in public sector procurement and will only be delivered through a true partnership between government and industry.

There are great examples of where joint-working has already delivered innovative solutions in this area. G-Cloud was a joint-industry and government initiative, and is an important step towards the way government procures technology as well as creating more opportunities for new entrants.

We are encouraged to see increasing sales going through G-Cloud. However, it has a long way to go before making a significant impact on public sector buying behaviour. The pace of change in terms of sales has not been fast enough since its inception.

The use of data analytics represents a fantastic potential tool for driving innovation and efficiency in the public sector

techUK members, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), have continuously highlighted the following issues as challenges with G-Cloud:

• Departments do not understand how to use CloudStore, and need training to understand how to use search terms and identify services;

• Security accreditation is complex and bureaucratic, and is a huge burden particularly for SMEs;

• Services on CloudStore need to be categorised better to help both suppliers list their services correctly and for buyers to find the services they need.

We think these challenges can be overcome through the Government Digital Service working more closely with industry to help suppliers understand how they get on to G-Cloud and, most crucially, to help buyers understand how to use G-Cloud. We believe joint industry and government action will have a significant impact on G-Cloud and accelerate procurement spend currently going through G-Cloud.

techUK has developed a plan to be put to the Cabinet Office and individual departments across government and public sector organisations. Key proposals include:

• An offer by techUK to bring private sector procurement expertise to the public sector through a series of engagement activities, such as buyer camps, tutorials, and mentoring from techUK members and their large customers to help public sector colleagues improve skills, and adopt new and innovative approaches.

The use of data analytics represents a fantastic potential tool for driving innovation and efficiency in the public sector. techUK members have called for government to use data better to allow consolidation of infrastructure assets, avoidance of waste and to ensure government does not keep buying solutions it already owns. We would like to work with the public sector to support their better use of analytics to achieve a significant impact on cost efficiency.

The OFT highlighted the length, cost and complexity of procurement processes. This is something that techUK has long recognised and we believe simple improvements, such as non-duplication of solutions, limiting procurement timescales and addressing the way security accreditation is managed will make a difference towards getting more value.

The report by the OFT also focused on the need to improve government’s ability to innovate and use the kind of solutions that are in general use across the private sector. Suppliers of all sizes echo this and techUK is calling on government to engage around these proposed initiatives:

1. Implement a directory of the many thousands of suppliers, large and small, wishing to provide solutions to the public sector;

2. Work with the technology industry to enable suppliers to improve their ability to engage with the public sector through supplier development programmes covering quality and capability, and to ensure feedback on how to improve the vehicles and programmes available to assemble the best commercially available solutions;

3. Develop a programmatic approach to projects using concept viability to test requirements and ensure national engagement.

The UK technology industry has a well-earned reputation of developing innovative and effective solutions across all areas of business. Through joint-working between the technology sector and government, techUK believes there can be a real change in process, behaviour and culture leading to a significant positive impact in public service delivery.

Naureen Khan is head of public sector at techUK, representing more than 850 technology companies.