Last week a SME Cloud business went into administration because HMRC had migrated away to another supplier. The contract originally won through G-Cloud as a two-year contract, but not subsequently renewed highlights one of the challenges for SMEs to win and successfully grow their public sector business.
“Her Majesty’s Government is not in the habit of bankrupting SMEs”, I’m told often by procurement people within public sector, hence why they don’t want to give significant work to SMEs like us. The risks are obvious; you win a large engagement, hire more staff, get more equipment and move to new premises, thereby increasing your overhead which can bankrupt you when the engagement ends and you are unable to find further work. Government departments are aware of this and ensure SMEs don’t win a large contract relative to their turnover and that their department doesn’t represent a significant proportion of an SME’s revenue. This is a challenge for ambitious SME’s like Zaizi looking to grow rapidly.
The Digital Marketplace has opened up public sector procurement for digital delivery services, making it easier and simpler for government departments to procure and for companies of all sizes to compete to provide those services. You answer 7 – 10 questions in 100 words on your skills and experience to pass the initial shortlisting; followed by a proposal and an optional presentation to win the digital outcomes project. The whole process could be 4 – 6 weeks long and you could be kicking off a new engagement with a new public sector organisation.
The challenges for SME’s like Zaizi to be successful in engagement with public sector via the Digital Marketplace are;
1. No visibility of what potential future work is coming up in the marketplace, to be lining up resources and preparing to bid for.
2. No ability to predict chances of winning a Digital Market outcomes opportunity. Recently we bid for an opportunity which had 54 suppliers bid - a record for Digital Marketplace I’m told.
3. Unable to forecast staffing needs and plan for hiring, as a successful Digital Marketplace bid could mean kicking off the project within 1 - 2 weeks of being notified of a successful bid.
4. Ability to onboard quickly and flex resourcing over the course of the engagement, which most projects require.
5. Meeting the wide set of skill and experience required in some Digital Marketplace opportunities.
The obvious answer is to build an associate network you can call upon and overcome the challenges without increasing your fixed overheads. There are a number of SMEs that do this including a few who are recruitment companies, with a large pool of contractors. This approach works and is suitable for some of the digital engagements within the public sector, but not for all. Companies sometimes reference skills and experience of particular associates in response to a particular opportunity but who are unavailable for the engagement.
At Zaizi, we’ve taken a partnering approach with like-minded SME’s to overcome the scaling, skills and experience challenge to be successful in winning Digital Marketplace opportunities. Our strength lies in open source delivery and cloud deployments. We’ve partnered with other SMEs who complement our capability like;
● Fluent Interaction: a user research and user experience design specialist
● Securestorm: a cybersecurity specialist
● LA International: security cleared associate network
By partnering with like-minded specialist SMEs, we have been able to rapidly assemble a strong digital team and successfully deliver Digital Outcomes opportunities. Our public sector customers tell us they like our partnering approach, because they get the breadth of specialist skills and experience they require; ability to flex resourcing – as the overhead risk is spread among different companies; and the committed engagement that only an SME companies can provide.
If you are an SME who will you partner with for your next Digital Outcomes opportunity?
If you think you can complete Zaizi, then please do get in touch at https://www.zaizi.com/contact-us.
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