The Role of SMEs in Delivering Government Transformation

The UK has a large pool of high tech small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that can play a huge role in transforming government, if only they were given the chance!

A small to medium enterprise (SME) is, by very definition, not a large organisation. Accordingly, to survive and thrive an SME must focus on what it is, and what it can be, very good at. This narrow focus makes most SMEs subject matter experts, so an SME in every sense.

Further, most SME are small (less than 50 people in the whole company group) and many are micro (less than 10 people). This is particularly true in the tech sector. This small size means that there is little bureaucracy and flat management structures allowing the business to operate in a most nimble and agile manner.

For most SME, a £0.5m contract will be significant and will have visibility across the company, including senior management. This will motivate the company to deliver on the contract both in letter and spirit. While a large multinational company could reputationally recover from failing to deliver a contract like this, an SME would be unlikely to recover the reputation damage and so won’t allow failure.

SMEs and Government transformation

One of the key characteristics of SMEs is an agile and coherent group of highly motivated experts often accompanied by existing “ready to use” innovative intellectual property. These characteristics are key enablers to transforming Government.

What is clear from the messages of political leaders, and evidence ‘on the ground’ is that UK SMEs can play a huge role in transforming government, if government chooses to give them the opportunity.

More needs to be done to address the misconception of SMEs around risk and cost – and better communication of the benefits and barriers for SMEs working in the Public Sector. These messages should focus on how greater use of SMEs provides citizens with innovative services, and Government leaders have a reduced risk of failure.

The Government should be doing more to address the barriers to SMEs - for a start the Public Sector should commission more smaller-scale focused projects and use shorter contracts with payments on time to minimise risk!

What about the situation where the scale of the government need is wider than the focus of a single SME? There are many case studies of SME working together to deliver broad scope projects with each SME delivering expertise in their area. There are even government template collaboration agreements to support this - a model that enables a Government service a team of motivated experts. These just need to be used more!

In summary, with SMEs Government customers get experts in the bid, and experts in the delivery and they help innovative companies scale. It’s a Win-Win!

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