In a quest to better understand the views of SMEs operating in the public sector tech market, techUK has undertaken a comprehensive survey, capturing the views of 171 SMEs. As a part of #BreakingtheBarriers week techUK held an event to present their findings.

The report identified three main barriers that prevent UK-based small businesses from accessing the public sector market and produced six recommendations on how Government and industry can overcome them.

The 3 main barriers identified in the report were:

  • Civil service culture and capability continue to hold back a diverse and effective supply chain. 96% of respondents did not think that civil servant buyers had a good understanding of how SMEs can meet their needs. It is clear that poor procurement practices remain and public sector commissioners do not fully understand the capabilities of SMEs.
  • Government should and can do more to improve the experience of SMEs using the supply chain route to sell into the public sector. 96% of SMEs surveyed thought that Government should be doing more to improve their experience of the supply chain and that this be done by addressing poor procurement practices.
  • SMEs are saying that there needs to be greater focus on the promotion of the Mystery Shopper and Contracts Finder. 86% of SMEs surveyed had never used Mystery Shopper and 62% did not think that Contracts Finder has helped small businesses access opportunities.
Naureen Khan, associate director of central government for TechUK

Naureen Khan, associate director of central government for TechUK

The findings and recommendations

Key finding 1

G-Cloud is making a difference but Government needs to promote and increase its use

  • 80% of SMEs surveyed said G-Cloud had helped SMEs access the market
  • 86% felt that civil servants need to make more use to the Digital Marketplace

Recommendation 1: The Government Digital Service and the Crown Commercial Service should continue to support and promote the Digital Marketplace, and civil service leaders need to ensure G-Cloud becomes the primary route for procuring cloud services.

Key finding 2

Civil service culture and capability remain key barriers to embracing a diverse supply chain

  • 96% of respondent did not think that civil servant buyers had a good understanding of how SMEs can meet their needs

Recommendation 2: Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills should build on the work of the Small Business Research Initiative to help civil servants build capability and understanding.

Key finding 3

Poor procurement practices continue to prevail

  • 64% highlighted onerous procurement process
  • 59% highlighted risk averse culture in civil service
  • 33% highlighted onerous terms and conditions in public sector contracts

Late payments was of least concern, highlighted as a key barrier by only 10% of respondents.

Recommendation 3: When procuring non-cloud services, the Government Digital Service and the Crown Commercial Service should apply the simple, easy and accessible principles developed for G-Cloud.

Key finding 4

SMEs are not aware of the tools that Government has created to help them

  • 86% of respondents had never used the Government’s Mystery Shopper Scheme
  • 62% of respondents did not think that Contracts Finder has helped small businesses access opportunities in the public sector.

Recommendation 4: techUK should work with the Crown Commercial Service on a national campaign to promote awareness of and capture user feedback for continuous improvement of Contracts Finder and Mystery Shopper.

Key finding 5

SMEs are not aware of the Cabinet Office’s SME Panel

  • 78% of respondents were not aware of the Cabinet Office’s SME Panel Of those who had heard of it, many were unclear of its remit, selection process, objectives and what it has achieved for SMEs.

Recommendation 5: The Crown Commercial Service should review the purpose and remit of the Cabinet Office SME panel to ensure that it is clear, transparent and well understood.

Key finding 6

Government must do more to improve SMEs’ supply chain experience

  • 96% of respondent thought that Government should be doing more to improve SMEs’ experience as part of the supply chain route to selling into the public sector

Recommendation 6: techUK and the Crown Commercial Service should work together to help improve the ecosystem by tackling unintended barriers that inhibit collaboration.

Conclusion

There has been a lot of good work done in the last 5 years but it is important not to get complacent. This report will help everyone involved focus on the improvements that can be made in the next 5 years, and beyond that. This will help deliver the innovation and transformation that Government is looking for whilst also helping dynamic British based SMEs to scale and grow.

You can see the full report here.

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