Police Procurement – Challenges and Opportunities
On Wednesday we held an event with techUK, Police ICT Company and Clue Computing. Check out our Ops Assistant Elliot's write-up of all that was covered on the day!
The Blue Light Sector is a challenging market – with spending regulations, high security demands, and a complex political landscape, suppliers can often find it difficult to get their solutions into the Police Forces. However, with a growing appetite for a digitally enabled Police Service, and bodies such as the Police ICT Company supporting the Police in their tech procurement, the Blue Light Sector is set to be a great place to be in the next 3-5 years.
After a hectic train journey with the Advice Cloud Marketing Manager Emina reciting and revising her presentation, we arrived at techUK at 2.30 on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. Once we settled in, the talks began and first up was Paul Kennedy, our newly appointed Blue Light Adviser.
Paul Kennedy – The Current Police Landscape
Paul touched on multiple topics, detailing the landscape of today’s Police Force and outlining its needs and the problems it faces. The main challenges for buyers within the Police Forces include funding, arguments around systematic failures, the toss-up between modern challenges and legacy challenges, and the fact that the Police landscape is a highly complex and political one. He did however add that now is a pivotal time for the Police Forces, with the Policing Vision 2025 laying out the plans for a building a better, digital policing future. With this new vision for policing comes opportunities for suppliers! These include data, machine learning, AI, integration, mobility, digital evidence management, and disclosure.
Paul’s tips for suppliers:
- Know the Policing problem you are trying to solve – it’s no good having an all-singing, all-dancing solution, if it’s not the solution to anything!
- What are the business benefits for the Police – there is a restriction on Police Force budgets, so the supplier needs to know how their solution is worth the money of the buyer – and this needs to be evidence based.
- Scalability of solution – this is key for the Police Forces, as it is anywhere in Government. A cloud product is likely to be scalable anyway, but make sure you consider this before opening talks with the Police.
- Is your solution an outright transformation or is it part of a wider transformation? – the aim of digital policing is interoperability, and Officers and workers use a wide range of different products and software – even if your solution is perfect, the Police want to know that it will work with their other tech.
- Know and understand your customer – an obvious one, but oh so easy to forget, and so important in the Blue Light Sector.
- Work alongside the Police ICT Company – Paul recommends suppliers align themselves with the Police ICT Company as it grows traction and matures.
Which brings us nicely onto our next speaker…
Ben Nelson – The Police ICT Company
The Police ICT Company is owned and funded by Police and Crime Commissioners and helps to support policing to make the public sector safer through better ICT.
The vision for the Police ICT Company was set out clearly by Ben in three pillars.
- Set the direction – Providing technical insight and leadership to define how policing can make best use of technology to deliver the Policing 2025 vision.
- Source the deal – Negotiating and managing contracts to achieve efficiencies and value for money across national policing tech spend.
- Assure the delivery – becoming a source of support for major policing technology programmes and live services to de-risk and coordinate delivery.
He explained that these were to be achieved through their 10 core services and outlined some of their commercial progress. This includes the IBM i2 ‘Access for All’ agreement – an agreement overseen by the Police ICT Company that has consolidated 122 separate data software agreements into one overarching one, that has saved £3m across the 43 police forces.
Ben finished by urging suppliers to support the delivery of the Policing Vision 2025 by offering products and services that address policing needs, supporting end-to-end business transformation, and ask companies to consider working together in supply consortiums, and to consider APIs in future developments – a point echoed by Claire Elford later in the day.
Jules Donald, Chief Information Officer for Essex & Kent Police
Jules had a lot of advice for the Police buyer – with horror stories of past procurement’s gone wrong, how Procurement Legislation was always a blocker in the past, and how bad procurement would end up costing the taxpayer money.
Her advice for the police included:
- Awareness of problems – of course, the police buyer should have an extensive knowledge of the problem.
- Police forces should research the market – there’s a lot out there, and someone will have the perfect solution to your problem – it just takes some research.
- Collaborate with other police forces – collaboration is key! At the end of the day, it will save the police money and time and ensure interoperability across forces.
- Avoid ambiguity – when releasing an opportunity, make sure you have set out your problem and the solution you require very clearly. This will ensure the right suppliers come to you!
- Do detailed prep work – it’s no use buying something if you haven’t prepared for it.
- Don’t over-customise – a particularly important one. Often, an off-the-shelf product has the perfect solution to your problem and will save you a lot of time and money.
- Future-proof – ensure that you have the support services you need for any product you are planning to buy.
Jules also had good advice for suppliers:
- No dodgy deals – while this is obvious, it’s worth noting that forces often have to build a business case 18 months prior to receiving any money from the Commissioner – so no ‘end-of-month’ deals.
- Software Licensing Compliance – ensure that your solutions are compliant!
- Data Integration – the onus is on the supplier to help with integration – not just sell individual solutions.
Next to take to the stage was our very own marketing manager!
Emina Demiri-Watson – Police Procurement: The Routes and the Trends
Emina gave a fantastic presentation on the routes and trends of police procurement, offering statistics on police spend across different frameworks, and outlining the benefits of these different frameworks for suppliers.
Starting with the size of the UK Public Sector market, Emina explained that currently, the Blue Light Sector makes up a very small percentage of the total framework spend each year. But this is changing…
Explaining to the audience the challenges of police procurement, Emina touched upon the fact that a lot of police departments are tied to long contracts with systems integrators and mentioned that the upcoming MET-New Signature deal, which will be the biggest on G-Cloud, signals a move away from these long contracts.
What we can expect to see in the future:
- More framework spending
- More cloud tech purchases
- More collaborative procurement frameworks
- A move towards ‘off-the-shelf’ products
- Significant savings
- Suppliers incorporating framework strategy into their Public Sector strategy
- More focus on sector specific Marketing and Sales
- More focus on security and data protection
- Common standards of contracts across the police
This shines a positive light on the future for suppliers – making procurement processes easier and quicker, and making the Blue Light Sector easier to access – and more of a big spender!
And last up, but certainly not least…
Claire Elford, Managing Director at Clue Computing
Clue Computing provide a case management system and have had great success in the Blue Light Sector. Claire put this down to a few reasons – Clue have one product, and they are focused on an agile and configurable system.
Claire had 5 key tips for suppliers:
- Open API’s – as Ben mentioned earlier, open API’s are key – and crucial for interoperability.
- Deploy in the cloud – as the UK Government is pushing cloud first, it is ever more necessary to be able to deploy in the cloud.
- Innovative and flexible pricing – in the Blue Light Sector, funding is a central issue, and any supplier with a forward-thinking pricing plan (e.g pay-per-use) is bound to have an edge.
- Easy to use tech – this may seem simple, but it makes sense. The police don’t have time to be training staff on a new piece of tech – if you want to supply to the Blue Light Sector, make sure your solution is easy to use.
- Engage and collaborate with the Police ICT Company – you can see the benefits of the Police ICT Company above – this is a no-brainer.
A very interesting afternoon of talks! Procurement in the police forces clearly has its setbacks, but these are being resolved and worked around, only boding well for Blue Light suppliers. I hope you have learnt as much from this blog as I did on the day and can take some of the speakers’ advice and expertise forward to drive your success in the Blue Light Sector.