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Business Transformation Q4 2023

Empowering cloud SMEs to deliver better public services at a lower cost

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Jo Oliveira

Business Development Lead, Unboxed Consulting Ltd & Member, CCTA Advisory Board

Cloud SMEs have the potential to deliver the most innovative public sector solutions at better value for money for taxpayers. To do so, the Government needs to build a more open and transparent procurement system.

For many years, governments of all types have sought to increase public procurement spending on SMEs. There is rightly cross-party consensus on the benefits of greater SME participation in the delivery of public services. Despite this, analysis by Tussell found that just £1 in every £5 (21%) spent by the Government in 2021 went to SMEs — some way short of the 33% target.

G-Cloud digital marketplace

Tech procurement has consistently stood alone in meeting — and indeed exceeding — the Government’s target. In 2022/23, £3 billion was spent through the Government’s G-Cloud framework, with 38% going to SMEs. In some years, almost half of government spending awarded to SMEs was through the Digital Marketplace, comprising G-Cloud and Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS).

However, despite the G-Cloud Digital Marketplace’s track record of supporting tech SMEs like Unboxed to access public sector contracts, in recent months, the Government has closed this proven procurement platform. These changes were made without meaningful market engagement and the replacement system is markedly inferior, lacking in transparency and open competition.

The benefits of the procurement system
envisioned by the CCTA are immense.

A level playing field for SMEs

I, therefore, welcome that the Cloud Consulting and Technology Association (CCTA), the trade association for cloud SMEs like Unboxed Consulting, has recently published a policy paper calling for the restoration of this proven framework. The paper makes a series of further recommendations for the Government that would level the playing field in public-sector tech procurement and ensure cloud SMEs are able to compete fairly for government contracts.

The benefits of the procurement system envisioned by the CCTA are immense. Not only would the Government save money through enabling greater competition, but by removing barriers to entry for SMEs, the Government would also have access to the most innovative public sector solutions.

Moreover, public procurement is an essential lever through which the Government can support tech SME growth and dynamism, therefore enhancing the productivity and wider competitiveness of the economy. This has the added benefit of reducing regional inequalities and promoting prosperity across all regions of the UK.

CCTA members and cloud SMEs have the potential to support better public services at a lower cost to taxpayers and to deliver solutions which transform our economy and daily lives for the better. It is time for the Government to enable them to do so.

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