Crown Commercial Service says that while the challenges of integrating technology into public services and the wider public sector can be daunting, much is being done to enable digital transformation
The challenges of integrating digital technology into public services and the wider public sector can be daunting, and many organisations will have been wrestling with such issues over recent months through necessity.
Until recently, such change would ideally have been cultural: a state of constant, insight-led innovation. But coronavirus changed the landscape, forcing the public sector to adapt speedily in order to maintain or, in some cases increase, service provision.
There may not be a return to a settled state soon, and that settled state will arrive at different times for different areas of the public sector.
But when it does, Crown Commercial Service (CCS) as the UK’s biggest public procurement organisation advises customers to – where possible – research the market and leave time to cover the complexity of any requirement.
When circumstances allow, engaging with stakeholders is invaluable. If viable, spend time at the start of a project finding out exactly what systems you have, how they are being used and how they need to be used in the future. You may discover you’re paying for hardware and services unnecessarily, which means you can adjust your requirements accordingly. The production of such a technology plan provides suppliers with the information they need to advise and innovate on your behalf, future-proofing your business and ensuring that you get a reliable specialist supplier. CCS offers support for such fact-finding via Lot 2 of our Technology Services 2 framework.
As the landscape continues to settle, customers may find it difficult to ensure all purchases line up with a wider organisational strategy, such as transfer to the cloud. Some acquisitions may have a short term, emergency role but, if you can, do consider if and how the technology you’re acquiring can be accommodated in your long-term plan.
It may seem a luxury to ask potential suppliers if you can trial samples or have them demonstrated, but the technologies you are considering really do need to work within your environment.
For network services, it’s also crucial that you compare notes with other organisations similar to yours in terms of size, technology requirements and, importantly, location to see how they are addressing these issues – such dialogue may speed up procurement at a time of urgent need. At CCS, our Business Development Managers may be able to assist in facilitating such assessments.
In a constantly changing technology market, leasing can be an attractive option, particularly if budgets are tight, and once again this can be set out in a plan so the customer is aware of the cost and timescale they have on each product.
When customers are looking at buying technology, whether services or products, the best way to ensure value and fitness for purpose remains further competition.
‘All in one’ specialist solutions
Many customers need to buy quickly and easily, so it’s worth looking around for ‘all in one’ specialist solutions. For example, CCS, in collaboration with the Department for Education, has designed an Education Technology agreement. It offers technology goods and services in one place. We also provide an online catalogue for quick purchases too.
Leah Fletcher, Commercial Agreement Manager – Education Technology, explains how it can help customers stay in control: “The customer will have a contract with the supplier where there will be key performance indicators in place. These are important because they can demonstrate when the technology is not working for you and trigger support from the supplier and the agreement owner.”
Procuring services can be more complex, and there can be pitfalls if it isn’t carefully planned. Where possible, ensure the needs of the end-user are considered and built into your specification, the requested service levels and service credits need to be realistic: if they’re too onerous, they will result in increased costs, too basic and they won’t do the job.
It is also advised that a governance or change process is built in to support a good working relationship and ensure the risks and liabilities associated with the service are correctly assigned to both the supplier and your organisation.
Exit management plan
Finally, always ensure you consider the exit management plan when procuring new services, it is easier to agree on this at the start than when leaving.
CCS has produced a free whitepaper called Technology Solutions, which sets out nine simple steps to successful technology buying in the public sector.
Although the way many of us buy common goods and services has changed in recent months it may be helpful to remind ourselves that even a little preparation can prevent difficulties down the line. A view supported by Peter Kirwan, Deputy Director – Technology at CCS, who says: “Getting the right devices, in the correct quantity as well as appropriate, reliable network services to support your work is as important as ever.”
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Crown Commercial Service (CCS)