CloudStore: The Cloud for SMEs

UK Government Director for Dell Alan Mac Neela has recently outlined ways on improving SME engagement in the execution of the Government’s ICT strategy, including methods on how the consortia can support and enhance partnerships between small to medium enterprises and large vendors.

According to Mac Neela, the government’s CloudStore is serving as an online portal that facilitates procurement of cloud services between the public sector and a wide variety of suppliers. One thing worth noting about this is the fact that over half of said suppliers are in fact small or medium sized enterprises.

The government is hoping that procurement networks (such as the aforementioned Cloudstore) will help increase SME participation in public sector ICT contracts, which in turn would increase competition within the marketplace, thereby leading to improved services, reduced costs, and economic growth.

The government has already made some strides in developing the vibrant SME ICT market, but there is no denying that there’s still room for improvement, and that the government should continue encouraging the awareness and skills of entities that are procuring services from small and medium enterprises. Being successful in this endeavor requires a number of things from both sides of the equation.

Improved Engagement

There is an urgent need to reconcile the development of policies, with regards to improving engagement with SMEs, with their implementation. There is also a need to encourage joint work and shared practice between all the SMEs and public bodies involved in a procurement process.

Increased Capacity Building

The government needs to be more proactive in helping SMEs improve their capacity, in order to encourage their participation in procurement processes, even when competing against large contractors.

Streamlined Procurement Processes

One of the main problems of SMEs when participating in procurement processes is that the approach taken by public bodies can be too lengthy and tedious, as well as subject to over-regulation. The entire procurement process is most of the time leaning towards the advantage of large enterprises with deeper resource, making it so the whole process is inherently limiting the capacity of SMEs to participate in the government’s ICT strategy. Streamlining will ensure that the procurement process is a level playing field for all parties involved, regardless of their size.

Improving the relationships between SMEs, large suppliers, and public bodies will benefit all parties involved, since this will strengthen and enhance the service offerings that these types of consortia have on offer, there’s also the fact that larger suppliers frequently integrate and rely on the diverse specialisms of SMEs for their own service offerings, so any improvement in that sector will benefit them as well.

Proper lot sizing also ensures the fairness in procurement processes, which means there is very little chances of a single sector to unfairly corner the market and monopolize the industry, which benefits both the SMEs, who can now compete against larger suppliers, the larger suppliers, who won’t have to be overshadowed by their more aggressive counterparts, and the public bodies, who will benefit from the cost efficient and quality services that are almost always the byproduct of a market with healthy competition.

The successful engagement of SMEs in the UK Government ICT has already started, and now it is up to the government to support and invest in the conditions required to provide completely fair and accessible procurement process.

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