Opinion

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Cabinet minsters fail to see the big picture in IT shift to SMEs

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Recently, business secretary Vince Cable and Ed Davey revealed to the prime minister that government departments are at a virtual standstill, due to the “shambolic” state of IT provisions supplied by small firms.

The comments from Vince Cable and Ed Davey, two highly respected cabinet ministers, only discredit the tireless work which has already been done in providing SMEs with greater opportunities to support the IT needs of Government departments.

Ultimately, what they fail to address is the enormous cultural shift we are now seeing across IT services within Government departments and one which was never going to happen over night. For too long government IT contracts had been dominated by a select oligopoly of big SIs profiteering from a cast iron grip on the market with no room at all for outsiders, notably the SME community.

Currently we are on the cusp of change – schemes like the G-Cloud framework opening up opportunities for SMEs are the instigators driving this.

The flexibility and innovative nature of SMEs and their solutions means a complete turnaround in the way the public sector has traditionally bought and implemented its IT systems. They are no longer committed to long-term, expensive contracts and are now exposed to a whole new set of solutions and companies they have previously never had access to.

It is important to recognise that the shift towards public sector and Government departments embracing IT services from SMEs is still very much in its infancy. There was always going to be challenges under any new procurement process, but rather than criticising the work achieved so far, now is the time for a real push towards increasing awareness of the benefits that can be seen through services offered.

The opportunities provided can allow departments to increase cost savings and efficiencies without compromising front line services. Indeed, the solutions available will often give a much better quality of service to government departments than those currently available from traditional government IT suppliers.

The purpose of embracing SMEs has always been to open up more innovative and entrepreneurial ICT services to the public sector, breaking up the oligopoly that has controlled the market until now. It seems unjust, therefore, to condemn the efforts so far before it has been given a real chance to prove its worth.

Peter Groucutt is managing director of Databarracks.

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