More from Maude: lean procurement, faster contracting and more SMEs?

Francis Maude, UK Cabinet Office Minster, met 30 major  Government suppliers (and a few who would like to be in that category) this week to discuss life, the universe and procurement matters.  There’s a lot of content to digest on the Cabinet Office report on the event here , but a few initial observations.

1. The non-current suppliers appear to come from the BPO (outsourcing) sector – Xchanging, Infosys, Wipro aren’t major current providers to Government.   Is that an indication of where we might see major new opportunities for suppliers?

2. Unipart and Intellect (the IT sector’s trade body) are working with Cabinet Office, and a ‘Lean Study’ on procurement processes is underway – I assume that’s Unipart as they specialise in that area.  The aim is to speed up and simplify public sector procurement processes.  Pathfinder Procurement Projects will be implemented in Q1 2011 to test the outcomes.

3. Crown Commercial Representatives (CCRs) are going to lead engagements with major suppliers. These will be “senior people drawn from central government departments and the private sector.” Some job opportunities there perhaps?

4. The “days of big IT contracts are over”.  (We’ll have to see how will that work when it comes to contracting for something like the new HMRC PAYE tax system.  Anyone want to take a bet on whether Cap Gemini get to deliver that?)  Maude wants big suppliers to work as equals with smaller, and help develop new commercial models such as mutuals. I’m not sure what’s in it for the big suppliers to throw themselves into that idea, worthy aim though this may be.

5. An online feedback facility- “problems with procurement” - has been launched for small businesses to complain about public procurement – here.

This is all good stuff but raises as many questions as it answers.  For instance, we still wait to see how the most obvious tension in all of this is going to play out - the inherent conflict between fewer big contracts / more use of SMEs, as opposed to Maude's desire to centralise Whitehall procurement.

And these CCRs; OGC tried something like this a few years ago.  It didn't work then, although to be fair there is more top level support for the idea of a single approach now.  But you can see obvious potential tension between CCRs and Departments  ahead.... and good CCRs aren't going to come cheap.

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