The public sector IT market is still too tough a nut for most suppliers to crack, according to a recent survey by Tenders Direct in collaboration with the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).
Analysts Ovum Holway estimate that the Government will spend £3.8bn on IT services this year.
But over 60 per cent of companies will find it hard to get information about tenders, and 70 per cent have complained that it is difficult to make contacts in the public sector.
More than a third of the 575 respondents were IT products and services companies, and three quarters employed fewer than 50 staff.
Some 56 per cent dealt mainly with local bodies, 18 per cent with central government and 26 per cent with neither.
Almost 60 per cent felt that the tendering process is overly bureaucratic, and just over a third indicated that the standards required are too onerous.
Around 40 per cent believed that the public sector has no interest in dealing with small firms.
Three quarters maintained that they have had no help in breaking into the public sector market.
Half insisted that there are not enough low-value contracts, and four out of 10 said that the government practice of aggregating smaller contracts into larger and longer contracts shuts them out.
But Simon Dowling, chief executive of Civica, a reseller focused on the public sector, said that although sales cycles are longer, once a company has been through one procurement the process is well defined.
"It might not be as flexible, but it is more transparent," he explained. "The key challenge for anyone getting into the public sector is understanding the market. Being a new entrant is a bit daunting.
"People like to know who you are and what your public sector credentials are. That can be a bit of a barrier when you want to get in for the first time."
Peter Gershon, chief executive of the OGC, said: "Smaller suppliers can often offer better value for money than larger companies.
"Public sector purchasers always try to obtain value for money. I want them to ask themselves regularly whether a smaller supplier may offer the best solution."
The British Chambers of Commerce is calling for a central clearing house for tenders under £100,000.
The government market seems to be opening up for some, however. vnunet.com's sister publication Computer Reseller News revealed in April that new entrants to the GCat government catalogue had grabbed 30 per cent of the business since last October.
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