The benefits of selling to the public sector
If you are considering venturing into the public sector or increasing your government sales, this blog will hep convince you as we explore 4 key benefits of selling to the public sector!
The news may well be full of doom and gloom when it comes to public services – all that austerity, all of those cuts – but the truth is that the public sector still spends a serious amount of money on technology every year. As the need for transformation becomes ever greater, there’s also an increased desire to do things differently – which means spending that money on different things, which could be your product or service!
As we enter a new year, perhaps your resolution should be to make more sales to the public sector, for all the following four reasons…
Size of the opportunity
Government in the UK spends a lot of money on IT and digital, whether hardware, software or services. To give you an idea of the numbers involved, in 2016/17, just under £15 billion was spent across the public sector on technology. This includes £2.7 billion each on software and hardware, and a whopping £4.9 billion on IT outsourcing (see this presentation for more facts and figures).
Increasingly this money is not being spend on tradition suppliers and big systems integrators, but on smaller, niche specialist suppliers.
The message is clear – the public sector is spending a lot on technology still, and you don’t have to have the scale of an IBM or a Microsoft to access this market.
It’s easier than it’s ever been to do
Over the years, the public sector has gained a reputation for being overly-bureaucratic, addicted to complex processes and vast quantities of paperwork. This led to only larger suppliers feeling they had the resource to be able to respond to lengthy procurement processes, dedicating large bid teams to the work.
Increasingly, though, this isn’t the case.
The introduction of new frameworks has made selling technology into government even easier, especially for smaller businesses. The Digital Marketplace, created in 2014 by the Crown Commercial Service and Government Digital Service, saw £3.2 billion spent on that framework alone, and almost half of that money went to SMEs.
These frameworks can be a great leveller for smaller companies looking to gain a foothold in the public sector market. Getting noticed on them can be a challenge – but of course that’s where Advice Cloud can help!
The chance for long term relationships
Another preconception that many have of public sector tech procurement is that it’s incredibly hard to dislodge incumbents – that once a supplier is in place, they stay there for decades.
In some instances this is still true, particularly in the area of large back office systems, which, to be fair, can be really complicated to replace and involves huge amounts of expense and work. But increasingly new suppliers can displace the incumbents, particularly where they can better meet standards such as the digital service standard and the technology code of practice.
So, getting a foot in the door is easier than it once was. But don’t forget, when government finds that it likes working with a supplier, they do have a tendency to stick with them, particularly where the vendor remains agile and flexible, and enthusiastic about the relationship. Keep coming up with ideas, and don’t take the customer for granted, and you’ll have the opportunity to maintain that relationship for a long period.
In summary – government doesn’t stick to the same old suppliers like it used to – but it will find ways to form long term relationships where there is a clear benefit to the tax payer.
Working on interesting problems
Much of the public sector is involved in solving some really challenging, complex problems. Sure, there are quite a few high volume, transactional services, but alongside those are many that so far have resisted being truly transformed with technology.
This provides a fantastic opportunity for creative technologists to work with government to develop new ways of meeting demand. Taking the time to truly understand the needs of service users and the outcomes they want to achieve, the intricacies of the wider public service system that many processes exist within, and how technology, data and design can be used to remove inefficiencies and provide excellent customer experiences.
Take social care, whether adults or children, where demand seems to be going through the roof, retention of social workers, which is vital, seems difficult to achieve, and processes clunky and involve much duplication of effort – all within an environment that is very high risk with vulnerable people potentially facing danger on a daily basis. This is a properly complex issue, but not an insurmountable one if all the right people with the right knowledge and skills are brought together – and tech SMEs need to be part of that mix.
Technologists as a group are often motivated by solving problems, and there are plenty of interesting ones in the public sector to get stuck into.
As part of meeting the challenges facing the public sector, there’s a requirement to get away from the same old, same old and do things differently. There’s a lot of talk about innovation, and perhaps a lot of the case studies one reads on the subject don’t actually sound all that innovative, but that really has to change now. Public services of all shapes and sizes are looking to innovate by deploying new technology to enable new operating models, which will help them meet ever increasing demand with ever shrinking budgets.
Some of the technology starting to make serious inroads in public services include:
- Voice enabled interfaces such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home, where citizens can access services simply by using their voice. This has been trialled to great effect in the NHS and is seeing greater uptake within local councils to take away some of the strain from contact centres
- Robotic process automation, which sees computer programmes take the place of humans in entering data into systems, removing the need for people to double key information and greatly reducing the cost of transactions where information needs to be processed in several systems at the same time
- Digital platforms are increasingly being implemented by public sector organisations, interoperable sets of technology building blocks that can be used to build end to end digital services, removing the need for siloed line of business systems in the back office and seperate forms and citizen accounts on the front end.
There are plenty others, of course, but the point is clear – the public sector is ready to innovate and it needs to work with supplier partners who can deliver it.
Doing public good
The other driver for working with the public sector is the knowledge that you are working for the good of society as well as creating value for your business. Depending on which services you focus on, you could be involved in helping homeless people find somewhere to live, supporting vulnerable people in getting access to the help they need, or ensuring that those less well off than ourselves receive the benefits they need to provide for their families.
This can provide a great motivation to deliver great products and services, knowing how essential they are to people who really need them to live their lives.
As Steve Jobs once asked someone, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”. You might not be changing the entire world working with the public sector, but you can make a difference to a really important part of it.
Making the most of this opportunity
Selling to the public sector has been seen as a challenge in the past, but with the growth of frameworks such as the digital marketplace, it has in fact never been easier to make sales to government bodies.
Of course, the trick is to ensure you get listed and that potential customers can find your listings – and that’s where we can help! Get in touch with us to find out how your business can be up and running selling to the public sector in no time at all.