SAP's Chief Innovation Officer believes that software vendors need to take responsibility and prove that they have a place in public sector IT.
Adrian Simpson's comments come amidst growing tension between Whitehall and some of the IT industry's largest suppliers, as the Cabinet Office makes moves to squeeze out the 'oligopoly' by reforming public sector procurement and introducing more SMEs into the ecosystem.
One of the most prominent examples of the government's firm stance is the recent Serious Fraud Office investigation into Serco and G4S, following threats of overcharging on contracts.
This has led to a bit of a backlash with some vendors, where CGI's head of UK operations recently threatened the Cabinet Office that if it continues its agenda then big companies will take their investment elsewhere.
Simpson believes that there is still a place for big suppliers, they just need to cooperate.
“I don't think we are at war, I just think we have to take some responsibility as software vendors to justify why we should be engaged in the procurement cycles. They [Whitehall] have to prove value in the taxpayers pound with what they are spending and we as a software vendors have to help them prove that there is a business case to do it and the software is fit for purpose,” Simpson told Computerworld UK at the UK & Ireland SAP User Group conference in Birmingham this week.
However, he did warn that no vendor can afford to be complacent and assume that they will continue to win government contracts just because they are a well known company.
“What we are seeing with public sector organisations is that they still want to be able to do new things, they want to be able to get the best cost base that they can from existing platforms and they are not adverse to swapping and changing as they need to,” he said.
“I don't think any of the big players can afford to sit back on their laurels and think it is going to be okay for the foreseeable future. We have to be cleverer than that and be more engaged with organisations.”
One of the Cabinet Office's key initiatives to reform how government departments use technology is the G-Cloud – an iterative framework that allows the public sector browse and purchase cloud products from a pre-approved list of suppliers, which is mostly made up of SMEs.
Simpson used this as an example of how big vendors should be engaging with government.
“I don't think that we feel excluded from what is going on within the government, because if we look at where they have positioned with the G-Cloud and the ability to procure on that, SAP is very strongly on that catalogue. It has been from the first wave,” he said.
“We see that there is still a place for the big players, as long as they are showing the right kind of capability that the end consumers of that software are demanding. We are there today, we were there from the start, we will continue to adhere to the standards and new phases of capability that come out that we can bid for.”
He added: “So therefore I don't think it is a threat, the challenge is on us to make sure that we are offering the right services because that is what the end users in the public sector are requiring.”