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Dun & Bradstreet: How Data Integration supports improved SME vendor engagement
In this article, I’ll be exploring how third-party data integrations within government frameworks and bid technologies can support and help grow applications for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Data Integration to Support SME vendor engagement
Current challenges to SMEs
Whether you are a modest SME or a large corporate, the public sector bid process throws up many barriers. Making a bid submission is therefore quite an onerous task, and one that many businesses struggle to engage with – and in the case of SMEs, may not be able to afford to engage with. In fact, according to a recent study more than 90% of UK SMEs say the public sector should do more to remove tendering barriers for contract bidding.
Even with these current barriers, at a recent TechUK event, figures shared showed that Government spending with SMEs is up, with 2020/21 figures suggesting £10.1B of direct awards and a further £9.1B of indirect awards (via other primary contractors). There is also good news about Government initiatives that will start to simplify SME engagement, including a new procurement bill that will replace hundreds of current EU laws.
So, can technology - married with the right data - help to improve the vendor experience? The answer is yes, a technology led initiative providing a centralised capability from Government to enable Suppliers to load and manage their data is underway. Vendors will be able to share information such as key declarations around Carbon Net Zero and Modern Slavery, together with insurance and accreditations, to a point where multiple procurement vehicles can consume the data.
We are starting to see the shoots of digital technology enabling a simplification of processes. This will drive greater value for public services whilst supporting agendas, such as levelling-up, and increasing the share of spend with SMEs, who make up 99% of UK businesses, thus supporting the economy.
A common platform with a common data model improves efficiency for all contracting bodies, ensures the right processes are in place to improve ‘time to bid’ and more easily capture mandatory qualifying criteria - including the growing need to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.
Making it easier for SMEs to be verified by the procurement body
One of the areas that Dun & Bradstreet has been able to support both the public sector and vendors bidding for new public sector contracts, is entity matching and verification – confirming with a level of certainty that a third party is who they say they are, and even indicating the risk they may pose.
This data matching and verification can also simplify form-filling (for example on a framework portal) where, once a vendor is identified via the Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S® Number, integrated data calls via APIs ensure that there is the right level of information in the background to support due diligence checks – with the aim of getting that supplier set-up in a compliant way but, also with ease for the vendor and public sector teams.
This still leaves the issue of the bid process itself though.
Vendor due diligence processes
In very simple terms, a lot of the work that government departments and the commercial world do as ‘business as usual’, such as credit and risk checks, compliance monitoring, adherence to modern slavery principles etcetera, is starting to be brought together by some of the large third-party procurement portals.
The technology and data sectors can be the conduit to change, but they cannot do it alone. The public sector is listening and looks to be adopting the right measures to drive the changes required to help SME vendors play their role in the levelling-up agenda. However, there is still work to do as to the number of frameworks and bid processes around due diligence requirements, for example.
Whilst there is a proliferation of data, we need to be mindful that making data useable takes effort and expertise. It is most useful when enriched, structured, and made available at the point where it is needed. The developers of the procurement portals understand the integration challenges with the public sector too.
To support SMEs, the public sector can also look to the steps prior to onboarding; at the early bid stages and see where learning from latter processes can inform. With this learning, government can then try to engage in a slightly different way, or at least use a more standardised approach across departments. In an ideal world, both technology and data can perpetuate their magic, supporting SMEs and public sector teams, by reducing the need for manual data input and consequently simplifying and accelerating engagements such as the bid process.
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David Mitton, Government Senior Relationship Director at Dun & Bradstreet, with 30 years' experience in a business development role, working with Public and Private sector clients. Over the course of his career, David has provided critical infrastructure (Public and Private Cloud) and data services (Reference, business, risk and compliance) for Government, official sensitive, and commercial businesses where data security is paramount for local, national and global systems. Read more about this author here.
On Tuesday 5 April, techUK was delighted to host the Cabinet Office and industry representatives for the launch event for the UK Government’s Digital, Data and Technology Sourcing Playbook which was published on 28 March 2022. The DDaT Sourcing Playbook sets out guidance – in one place – as to how digital projects and programmes are assessed, procured and delivered in central government departments, arms-length bodies and the wider public sector. Through the application of what is commercial best practice, the Playbook addresses 11 key policies and six cross-cutting priorities that will ensure government gets things right from the start when it comes to procurement.
You can watch the recording of the launch event in full here:
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