As you may have seen from our news page, last month we became one of more than 100 SMEs included on the Crown Commercial Service’s new Technology Services 2 (TS2) framework. This makes it easier for all public sector organisations – government departments, local authorities, NHS, ‘blue light’ etc. – to buy specialist IT services, from desktop solutions to replacing entire systems.
It’s another positive step in making it easier for the public sector to benefit from the flexibility, agility and innovation of SMEs, following the progress that’s already been made with the G-Cloud and Digital Services frameworks. We’ll no longer have to bid as subcontractor to a much larger prime contractor, which both slows down procurement and adds an additional mark-up which a fiscally challenged public sector can do without. It’s been estimated that this framework could help public bodies save more than £180m over four years.
What’s also interesting about TS2 is that, unlike other frameworks, every supplier whose submission exceeds the framework criteria is included, giving potential users a much wider choice. In previous frameworks, only the top 10 or 12 for each service were included, creating a restricted market and reducing choice.
It means every contract is likely to have a lot more bidders – good for the public sector as they get a lot more choice, but more competitive for us. However, we should see a lot more opportunities, and it’s up to us to offer the right services at the right price. We’ve got a lot of public sector experience, providing everything from desktop services to identity management to 24x7 support, and after working alongside some of the big prime contractors we’re delighted to have the opportunity to go it alone.
Another advantage of TS2 is that contracts can last for up to seven years. This offers more opportunities for developing a bespoke service and addresses one of the big criticisms of G-Cloud contracts, which are two years with a potential for two one-year extensions. Developing and migrating to new services can take considerable time for larger environments, and a longer contract gives more time to achieve the anticipated cost savings which makes the contract worthwhile.
Opening up the market to more competition can only be a good thing – both for Fordway as a company and for all of us as tax payers and users of public services.