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IT SMEs still struggling with Whitehall business



techUK survey shows big majority of small firms feel their potential goes unrecognised by central government buyers

Many small and medium sized IT companies are still struggling to come to grips with the central government market, with a large majority believing that civil servants do not appreciate their potential, according to the results of a new survey.

IT industry association techUK said that its annual questioning of SMEs showed that, from 171 respondents, 94% thought that Civil Service buyers did not have a good understanding of how smaller firms can help to meet their needs.

Although this was a 2% improvement on last year’s survey, it indicates an urgent need for better engagement earlier in the commissioning process, so civil servants can understand the innovative tech emerging from the sector, said techUK.

In addition, 86% had never used the Government’s Mystery Shopper Service and 65% thought the Contracts Finder did not help them gain access to the market.

Difficult process

The survey highlighted that many smaller firms still find that the procurement process, and the terms and conditions in government contracts, are barriers to winning business.

techUK said that it is working with the Crown Commercial Service and Government Digital Service to address the concerns, citing work on a Bidder Pack and a model contract to simplify the processes, but acknowledged that there are still frustrations in trying to reach the Government target of a third of its spending going to SMEs by 2020.

Naureen Khan (pictured), the association’s director of public services, said: “There is no doubt that British based SMEs have a key role in driving innovation in government. It’s clear that changes must be made to develop simple and accessible procurement processes and our survey findings show that we need swift action to ensure the public sector benefits from harnessing the very best of UK tech.” 

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