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Government Contracts in the Digital Age: The UK View

Rob Driver
Author: Rob Driver

As part of the UK government’s ongoing work to develop ‘contracts for the digital age’ the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) have worked with the tech industry to simplify contracts and host them online. This ongoing process has encouraged a more diverse range of suppliers to apply to offer their services to government and helped make working with government more accessible for a broader range of suppliers.

However, despite this progress, more needs to be done. techUK’s 2016 SME Survey found that SMEs are still struggling to access the public sector market due to onerous procurement processes. techUK has worked closely with Government to address these barriers through improving accessibility to Government procurement processes. This activity has included making changes to Contracts Finder, and improving access to public sector markets through simplifying the bidding process.

Key Feedback from Suppliers on Government Contracts

GDS has undertaken in depth consultation with a wide range of stakeholders during the discovery stage to develop the ‘model contract’, including suppliers (large and small companies) and individual digital specialists from all over the UK. Key feedback from the consultation included:

• It was important to suppliers that there’s consistent ownership through the contract lifecycle. This will ensure that knowledge is retained over time and that the contract maintains the same protections and maximum value is realised. With many different government frameworks consistency is vital

• The procurement and contracting process is time consuming for buyers and suppliers. For suppliers, preparing their bid and asking clarification questions takes time. Suppliers also said that they want to feel that buyers fully understand their bid

• It is important that Government customers are aware that using the same terms and conditions across a broad category could prove to be problematic as it could lead to high-level, generic definitions: for example, ‘cloud’. Some suppliers also felt that the way that certain clauses are written make it more difficult to comply with them.

Rob Driver, Head of Public Sector commented:

“The Government Transformation Strategy states that there will be a renewed focus on changing the way that government works to deliver transformation. GDS has indicated that a key area of focus for this transformation will be leading a step change in procurement to ensure that user-centred, design-led, data-driven and open approaches are commonplace in contracting by 2020.”

“GDS and CCS should be commended for the wide ranging engagement they have undertaken to improve procurement – particularly with SME tech suppliers, which will promote greater access to innovative technologies across public services. I would encourage techUK members working in Central and Local Government to join the growing community of ‘good contract champions’ to support GDS as they prototype and test different approaches to meeting contract users’ needs.”

If you are interested in finding out more about techUK’s work on ‘Procuring for Innovation and Growth’, please contact Rob Driver.

Rob Driver is head of public sector programme at techUK. For more techUK blogs visit here..