Cabinet Office announcements with procurement interest…

The UK Cabinet Office had a spurt of published activity over the last week or so: we're just going to summarise a few key points for now.

1. The most interesting announcement was probably the Innovation Launch Pad.

The Innovation Launch Pad is part of a series of measures, announced in February by the Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister Francis Maude, designed to open-up the public sector marketplace to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

You submit ideas, civil servants pick the best ones (yes, I know what you're thinking), then after mentoring from 'some of Britain's foremost entrepreneurs' you get to present them at a 'Product Surgery' in the summer, and go to a reception at Downing Street. It's unclear what happens then - a pat on the back? A procurement competition to actually award a contract ? A direct contract award? A grant for further work? I guess it will depend on the idea.

We're desperately trying to think of an innovative idea ourselves to pitch - any vendors reading this who do so, and want to keep us informed as to how well the process is working, we'd love to hear from you.

2. The new Government IT strategy. I'm not expert enough to comment in depth, but it looked to me a bit of an old-style civil service document. For all the talk of open source, smaller contracts, 'agile delivery' and social media, the document and deliverables seem to be long on good intent and light on just how these changes will be achieved. "The Government will also put an end to the oligopoly of large suppliers that monopolise its ICT provision" is a great thing to say; but it comes two days after Ministry of Justice signed another huge contract with Accenture...

So the actions are strong on writing standards, designing protocols, and forming Groups, and include the procurement transparency moves we already know about. An online Applications Store "to enable the reuse of business applications and components across the public sector" sounds a bit more interesting - can I get Angry Birds?

Anyway, comments from those more expert than me in the IT field gratefully received. In terms of IT procurement people, I guess familiarisation with open source and what that may mean for specs and procurement processes is probably the one 'new' area.

3. The launch of the Major Projects Authority to scrutinise all new major projects.  There's a lot of detail here around new approvals processes, toolkits and so on; we may need to take a closer look and report again. It appears to be evolutionary from the good work done over the last few years in OGC; Gateways, Starting Gate reviews, the Major Projects Review Group and so on. But it looks like some additional governance has been added, along with more emphasis on transparency. If you're involved in project / programme management, or procurement in a major project environment in Government, you need to take a look.

I suspect this rush of activity is linked to the date, probably connected with end of month / financial year deadlines at corporate and individual levels. The Cabinet Office structural reform plan, published first last summer, contained a lot of deliverables with March 2011 as the due date, and there may have been a few personal objectives as well to be crossed off the list before bonus / annual appraisals.  So it looks like Francis Maude and his team managed to get a lot ticked off their list just in the nick of time - well done the ladies and gentlemen of the Cabinet Office!

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