Guest Blog: Arming SMEs to compete with large corporates for government contracts

Small and medium businesses are better positioned than ever before to take on their larger competitors for government contracts, but only if they have the systems in place to support new growth.

In 2011, the UK Government outlined an aspiration to award a minimum of 25% of government contracts to Small and Medium Enterprises by 2015. Two years on and according to a newly released government report, things are certainly looking positive, with 10.5% of contracts, equating to £4.5 billion, having been awarded to SMEs.

It’s important to note that there is still a significant way to go before the government hits its 25% target, which means there will likely be even more opportunity for UK SMEs to win lucrative government business in the next few years, but only for those who are best positioned to handle the rapid growth that this will mean for their business

So what’s changed and how can SMEs capitalise on the opportunity and compete against much larger providers for government contracts?

Firstly the government has overhauled its procurement process. The typically highly bureaucratic and complicated process has been simplified, becoming more open and losing much of the ‘red tape’ that previously prevented SMEs from being involved.

The IT landscape has also changed, with the rise of cheaper, off-the-shelf cloud-based IT solutions which allows SMEs to move away from the need for expensive, bespoke systems. This means that many SMEs now have access to efficient, scalable and secure technology systems hosted ‘in the cloud,’ that enable them to compete effectively with major enterprises for government business.

However, SMEs must retain a dual focus as they scale up to compete for government contracts. Their drive for growth must go hand-in-hand with the development of systems and structures to ensure the business can cope with rising demand. There are numerous examples of how a small company can become a big one very quickly – for example, by winning a big new contract – but fast growth can be a double-edged sword.

Planning for potential growth is just as important to business success as winning new business, and having the right technology and business systems in place is absolutely vital to avoiding strained client relationships, system crashes and numerous other problems – from credibility to cash flow. So how can technology help SMEs to meet this challenge?

1. Supporting rapid growth
Having scalable cloud-based technology solutions in place is essential for managing the IT requirements of an expanding business or enterprise. In this way, companies only have to pay for the computing power required, without the need for upfront investment in expensive hardware. The business is left safe in the knowledge that as more capacity is needed it will be easily available, allowing business growth while keeping control of costs. The benefits of cloud-based solutions put even the smallest of operations on a level playing field in terms of the computing power, scale and flexibility required to grow the company and support the delivery of services to public sector departments.

2. Solid Service Level Agreements
Having stringent service level guarantees in place from IT service providers is vital for ensuring the reliability and security of business-critical services, which in turn, helps SMEs to guarantee the quality of the services they provide. In this way, SMEs can enjoy the security of knowing that they are getting IT services they can rely on, that won’t fall down when needed most. This allows SMEs to support their public sector customers with service guarantees of their own.

3. IT that’s easy to manage
SMEs often don’t have large IT departments and in some cases, may not even have dedicated IT managers at all. Working with an IT service provider who can take care of day to day IT support and operational management frees SMEs to concentrate on growing and delivering their core business and services.

4. Flexible solutions that fit specific business requirements
With such a diverse range of businesses, each with their own unique requirements, a one size fits all approach to IT just won’t work for SMEs. Deploying a solution that is flexible allows businesses to build and tailor an IT solution that fits their specific needs – from Internet, voice and email and through to security, virtual servers and mobility solutions. By sourcing a bespoke IT solution that meets their specific requirements, SMEs will benefit from technology that supports their every need, allowing them to better service their public sector customers.

For many SMEs, there has never been a greater opportunity to compete alongside larger enterprises for government business. But having robust, scalable IT systems in place is vital for any SME looking to grow quickly and cope with rising public sector demand. This helps SMEs to ensure the service delivery and credibility they need to take on their larger competitors for government contracts. Now is the time for SMEs to capitalise on the government’s drive to award contracts to smaller companies, but only if they have the right systems in place.

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