The government needs to provide funding to train key staff in managing multi-vendor contracts if it is serious about using SMEs for IT contracts, according to the National Outsourcing Association (NOA).
NOA chairman Martyn Hart made the call ahead of the Budget on Wednesday, arguing that any desire to level the outsourcing playing field needs to be balanced with the appropriate training.
"The government's recent focus on encouraging smaller businesses to bid for public sector contracts means that we are likely to see a rise in multi-sourcing, with a number of smaller suppliers providing a range of different services," he said.
"But very few workers in the public sector will have any experience of how to manage a number of different suppliers effectively, so perhaps we'll see the chancellor setting aside some of the budget towards training."
Hart also argued that the government should make the bidding process more amenable to SMEs by offering financial incentives, in light of comments from the prime minister pledging to support small businesses.
"The best way [the prime minister] could demonstrate this commitment to enterprise is to introduce incentives to smaller organisations looking to bid by making the bidding process itself tax deductible," he said.
Lastly, Hart said that the government should create a standard means of assessment on the suitability of suppliers to help ensure that the best firms are used.
"The NOA would also like to see the government investing in a means of measuring the performance of outsourcing suppliers, to ensure the best providers are used, rather than just those capable of providing every service as part of a big contract," he added.
"The government could use the budget to announce a new initiative aimed at kitemarking the performance of suppliers, with the best and most suitable suppliers receiving a green kitemark."
The government will be hoping that opening up the outsourcing market to more SMEs will improve IT procurement, particularly as an ongoing public affairs committee recently heard from leading IT experts that current systems still exclude SMEs.
The same committee has also heard that the UK lags behind other major nations when it comes to IT procurement and that large incumbent suppliers win new contracts too frequently.
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