Government targets cost by giving IT suppliers advance notice of needs

The government has published data outlining the lifecycle of its ICT contracts to alert suppliers to potential bidding opportunities in the future.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told hundreds of suppliers at 'The Crown and Suppliers: A New Way of Working' conference in London that government needs to engage with suppliers earlier, in order to procure more intelligently.

“In contrast [to the UK government] our European neighbours, and good private companies, talk to suppliers first.

“Procurements are subsequently faster and more straightforward because bids can summarise and price what’s already been discussed,” Maude said.

The new “forward-looking resource pipeline” data in IT will enable these earlier conversations, and similar information will be published for other areas of government in the future. The data for facilities management has also been published today, with other sectors such as defence and prison, will be published by April next year.

The pipeline data will also be updated at least every six months, and each project will have a confidence rating so that suppliers can assess the likelihood of a project going ahead.

“This new data gives clear visibility of the significant level of contracting opportunities worth a potential £50 billion or more.

“This advance warning will give firms the confidence to invest in plant, machinery and people. And that will help create a stronger economy – and to create more jobs,” Maude said.

Maude addressed the “myth” in the public sector that it was illegal to have informal conversations with suppliers to discuss precise requirements was "nonsense".

“It is not illegal for public sector procurers to talk to suppliers.  Not only is it not illegal it is plain common sense and good commercial practice,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government has committed to achieving a procurement turnaround of within 120 working days, a 40 percent reduction in the current lengthy process.

To encourage more SMEs to bid for public contracts, the government also aims to reduce the average cost of procurement in the UK, which, at £46,000, is more than double the average cost of public sector procurement in France (£19,000).

Although the new pipelines data makes the government IT contracts more transparent,  Bill Crothers, Crown Representative and group commercial director of the Home Office, warned that it was not necessarily a true reflection of future government spend.

In 2016 the Home Office’s major IT contracts, for instance, which range from desktops to applications management, will expire and make way for new options.

“We will likely procure in a very different way,” Crothers said.

“For example, we will have the Public Sector Network (PSN), cloud offering and open standards offerings to consider. So the past contracts give an indication of scale of spend, but not of the opportunities in the future.”

Similarly, all major ICT contracts in the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will expire by the next Spending Review period, and Crothers said that the department will move to a new IT sourcing model that will significantly reduce its costs.

The new ICT pipelines data is available at here.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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