The Cabinet Office
The NFB is working closely with the crown representative for SMEs, Stephen Allott. Much work is being done in the Cabinet Office to simplify procurement. Further information on these initiatives can be found below or by clicking here.
The role of the Crown Representative for SMEs
“His task will be to build a more strategic dialogue between HM Government and smaller suppliers – giving those suppliers a strong voice at the top table” – Francis Maude, Strategic Supplier Summit, 11 February 2011.
There are two main ways that Stephen Allott, as SME Crown Representative, is doing this:
1. Understanding the concerns of SME suppliers
Stephen is listening to the issues and concerns that SMEs have, and there are a number of ways in which SMEs can provide feedback.
• If you’re from an SME and would like to give us feedback about your experiences (good or bad) with a specific public sector procurement exercise you can act as a Mystery Shopper through our Supplier Feedback Service (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can tell us about tenders you don’t understand or instances of what you believe to be poor procurement practice. We will investigate all your submissions and commit to publish the results of the Mystery Shopper investigations regularly.
• Stephen is a member of the Cabinet Office’s SME Panel and engages regularly with SME representative organisations, getting feedback and passing information back through them as well as providing updates to the SME community through this website.
• He has established close links with Trade Associations that represent SMEs and they feed back to him on the issues and concerns their members have.
2. Open up Government procurement to SMEs
As well as strategic dialogue, Stephen is helping Government open up more business to SMEs.
• Product Surgeries - where SMEs can present direct to Government buyers. The surgeries are intended to improve Government buyers' awareness of SME offerings, but they are not linked to specific procurements. So far, five departmental surgeries have taken place, as well as the Innovation Launch Pad event, with more planned in the coming months.
• Stephen provides input into the redesign on the public procurement process as well as making direct interventions into specific procurements to make them more SME-friendly.
• Give input to officials when they are considering procurement practices and policy, giving SMEs a voice at the top table.
The appointment of Stephen Allott was announced in February 2011 at the Strategic Supplier Summit hosted by Frances Maude. The Summit was attended by David Cameron who gave a speech on Government Procurement.
He has over 16 years of experience in the SME sector. He has chaired the boards of seven technology SMEs and led the successful growth of one SME from 50 to over 800 people. He has also been heavily involved in providing management consultancy to SMEs, founded the ‘Cambridge Computer Lab Ring” and is a judge on the software and internet track for the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs Business Plan competition. Stephen is a graduate of Cambridge University and a speaker and author on the growth of technology SMEs.
Follow Stephen's Twitter feed @SMEcrownrep to keep up to date with the work he is doing to open up Government business to SMEs.
Stephen’s tips for SME bidders
Build below the threshold
The quickest way to build up a Government customer base is to start with low value procurements. To start with, aim for opportunities under 100,000 where the Government has abolished PQQs. Building up your base this way is a great foundation for competing for bigger sales in the future.
Be part of the conversation
If the first time you spot the opportunity, it's already formally gone to the market, you are behind the game. Pre-market engagement is your opportunity to shape the formal tender - sign up for email alerts on Contracts Finder, monitor PINs and register your interest in future procurements, attend information days and public sector "product surgeries". Register for the Government eMarketplace.
Play to your strengths
Recent studies of public sector procurers show that they see SMEs as flexible, quicker to react and able to offer better prices. Use the pre-market engagement to show this by reacting quickly to questions, offering options and evidence of where you've responded to change in the past. Realise that you are likely to be cheaper than bigger players and show evidence that you offer value for money.
Look good in the exam
Realise that no matter how good you are you will not win unless you make your strengths clear on paper too. Think of it as an exam - answer the question, don't elaborate and think about getting advice if it's your first time. The public sector is making the process simpler but remember that it will rightly be held accountable for the procurement decisions it makes, in a way the private sector is not. Take the exam seriously.
Cite evidence in your bid. If you say your system will show or do something, prove it - include a screen shot of how it works or other tangible bits of evidence. Use the clarification questions to highlight whether your key differentiators will be required elements of the specification.
Visit the Government's online Contracts Finder web portal by clicking here.
Further information on these initiatives can be found below or by clicking here.