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Martyn Hart

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Martyn Hart

Martyn Hart, chairman of the National Outsourcing Association, looks at the lessons to be learnt from the IT and business news

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Encouraging enterprise growth ahead of the budget

Time to make it easier for SMEs to win government contracts

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It’s that time of year again, as pens are sharpened, teeth are grated and everyone wonders if and how they will be affected by the budget announcement.

Of course, we’ve already seen a significant amount of belt-tightening as a result of the government’s Spending Review last year, but how do we expect to see the outsourcing industry affected by the Chancellor’s ‘pro-growth’ budget on 23 March?

Perhaps one of the areas where we could see an increase in funding is training. The government has made a big noise in recent weeks about encouraging smaller businesses to bid for public sector contracts, with the launch of a new website for procurement contractors looking to win public sector contracts with a value in excess of £10,000.

Perhaps the most likely consequence of this is that we’ll see a rise in multi-sourcing in the public sector, with a number of smaller suppliers providing a range of different services, instead of just one larger supplier.

But how well equipped in the public sector to manage multi-sourcing contracts? Very few workers in the public sector will have any experience of how to manage a number of different suppliers effectively, so perhaps it would be a good move for the government to set aside some budget towards training public sector workers in this respect?

They might even feel that it would a good idea to expand this investment in training so that it includes smaller enterprises, who have no real experience in dealing with contracts?

In the last week, we’ve seen the Prime Minister attacking what he calls the ‘enemies of enterprise’ and pledging to support British entrepreneurs as part of his plan to back small firms.

Perhaps, however, the best way he could demonstrate this commitment to enterprise is to introduce incentives to smaller organisations looking to bid, perhaps by making the bidding process itself tax deductible?

There’s no doubt that the sometimes protracted procurement process itself also needs to be streamlined in order to make it fairer for all. But what’s the best way of ensuring that this happens?

Perhaps the government could invest in a means of measuring the performance of outsourcing suppliers, to ensure that the best providers are used, rather than just those capable of providing every service as part of a big, fat contract?

The government could use the budget to announce a new initiative aimed at kitemarking the performance of suppliers, with the best performing suppliers receiving a green kitemark.

Of course, poor performance in an outsourcing contract is not necessarily the suppliers fault - perhaps we need to kitemark procurement organisations as well to ensure fair ratings for all!

It’s clear that there’s a lot the government can do in the forthcoming budget announcement to encourage small and medium sized organisations looking to get involved in the public sector - what do you think the government will do?

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