Four years ago today, David Cameron made a speech at the Strategic Supplier Summit in which he committed his government to “make the whole [government procurement] system a lot more welcoming to small and medium-sized firms.”
The idea being to significantly increase the number of contracts being won by SMEs. Unsurprisingly, this was great news to me as Managing Director of IndigoBlue, sitting as I do bang in the middle of their new target area.
So, four years later, how has the government performed?
I think the simple answer is, surprisingly well.
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy begins with the lines, “Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.” This is exactly how I felt about Central Government. Massive, seemingly opaque, and plagued by bureaucratic inefficiencies, complex forms and burdensome procedures, it used to be a complete nightmare for SMEs.
A little over four years ago, I had a meeting with a senior executive from the Cabinet Office who was keen to engage IndigoBlue. Towards the end of the meeting he asked, “OK, how can I procure you?”. Previously unaccustomed to government, I was amazed by this question. Surely you just sign a purchase order? I really had no idea. A procurement officer was then invited into the discussion but could offer no help. There was no obvious route. No framework. We could not be engaged.
Fortunately, this is no longer the case.
There are problems with G-Cloud and, in particular, the Digital Service Framework (DSF), but these are minor compared to the changes they have engendered. Similar to many other SMEs, IndigoBlue now has access to government contracts and can provide the innovative, value-for-money services that are required to achieve the Digital by Default agenda. This pleases me both as a supplier and a taxpayer.
There is still more to do, but the government and the Cabinet Office should be applauded for the progress they have made.