Could existing online applications, accelerate the Government’s digital procurement initiative?
Cabinet Office, Government Digital Services, GDS
“Do the hard work to make it simple”
The world of public sector procurement and contracting can be complex. It’s also vast in its scope. As a result, within the UK public sector, the way that things are bought and sold is often governed by outdated processes and systems. This means it’s hard work to make buying and selling simple, clear and fast.
G-Cloud Take Up
3 years ago, I went to a cloud software conference where the progress of G -cloud was presented by the owners of the platform. The presenter was given a hard time by the audience of disgruntled SME owners, on the low number of contracts available using this platform. The main issue was the system was oversubscribed by supplier SME’s, who craved for better access to government contracts but a complete underutilisation by government procurement bodies. Things have changed dramatically if you concur with these stated figures presented in the blog series.
“54% of total sales by value and 62% by volume, from all reported G-Cloud sales to date, have been awarded to SMEs ”
Is the digital marketing, open approach to procurement going down the same path? A large demand for digital online service provision but a low usage of this method, for delivery.
Digital Procurement Shift
The big change available now, to access products and services online are tailored solutions for end users, on mass, within a set range of parameters. If you re-adjust your needs to fit the solution available, you can access top quality products and services, for a fraction of the cost and the time, it currently takes to receive them. For example, look how many book readers, have adjusted their approach to book selection, buying, reading and review, to a complete online experience. The market place competes for innovative solutions to achieve commercial supremacy. The continually improved features often cost the users less if they change supplier.
Is this the way the government should be looking to solve the problem of procurement? If we think of the end user as the receiver of the service or product they should be able to access the whole process on line, including reviewing the experience.
By end user I mean the consumer of the product or service not the contracting government buyer. But even the buyer can use online economical solutions in their process.
‘Things to Do’ List
Let’s look at the list of future activities, in the blog. Here are some solutions already available online that could be tailored to suit end user needs. If the government service can enhance their core functions and use commercial online solutions for the rest, the frictionless aim becomes more achievable.
G-Cloud (Existing Core Functions)
- creating, finding and applying for new opportunities to do business with the public sector
- publishing opportunities and contracts to Contracts Finder using the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS)
- updating the services that suppliers can provide
- publishing individual ‘statements of work’ relating to a contract
- measuring and reporting what government is spending with suppliers
These functions are already available using the G-cloud platform. Should the interface be simplified for searching and reporting capability and linked to the systems below. Why not allow online access to this system, for any company and let the buyer do the qualifying assessment of the suitability of supplying them.
Contract Creation and Award
- communicating with buyers and suppliers before and during a procurement
- creating new contracts
- awarding, signing and countersigning contracts
- paying suppliers as quickly as possible for services they’ve delivered
Suppliers* that provide online legal contracting services. Online payment provisions built into the contract terms.
- shortlisting and evaluating suppliers
- giving feedback to unsuccessful suppliers
Suppliers* that could offer solutions in this area.
- tracking contract variations
- paying suppliers as quickly as possiblefor services they’ve delivered
There are numerous online Project management suppliers* that identify resources for managing progress, payments and link to accounting packages. There are also many online payments suppliers*.
* Disclaimer: Software application suppliers mentioned are indicative of the software functionality available, they are not a recommendation for specific use.
Moving all the processes on line and streamlining the interfaces into one, makes accountability for performance more difficult to attribute to a group. However, if the written review and star rating method of feedback is used, a much more immediate account of the provisioning experience is available. The user can be the client-buyer, a supplier, the person/ group the service he or she is receiving.
The ability to rate the service at key points in the process journey is far more likely to drive innovation and improvement, to avoid negative comments and embarrassment. By allowing government buyers and end users to access services, using existing online solutions, will truly make transactions frictionless, in a much shorter time frame.
Key Words: Government, Digital Market, G- Cloud, Supplier, Buyer, End User, Star Rating, Procurement