SMEs find procurement language too hard to decode, finds survey

Digital SMEs find procurement language too hard to decode

A vast majority of UK SMEs are struggling to understand opportunities outlined in the Digital Marketplace, a newly published audit has found.

Public sector digital specialist DXW conducted the survey and found the reason behind the lack of understanding was due to the lack of clarity in public sector digital procurement according to the survey.

According to the survey, SMEs believed that 71% of the notices did not adequately explain what problem was to be solved and 74% did not clearly describe user needs with only 13% of the published opportunities were rated as generally good, while 65% were rated as bad.

The survey also found that 77% of opportunities require six or more essential skills, 68% did not have a clear summary of the work, 65% did not adequately explain why the work was being done, 45% shortlisted five or more suppliers, and 32% did not clearly describe the budget.

DXW managing director Harry Metcalfe said: “It seems very likely that the quality of writing in opportunities is putting off SMEs who are more than capable of undertaking these projects. Many opportunities are unclear and some are essentially incomprehensible – except perhaps to the incumbent supplier.

“Clearer opportunities will ensure there is a wider, more diverse pool of suppliers, which will provide greater value for money for the public sector and better services for users. We carried out the research alongside our client work, which has limited the time we’ve been able to spend on it, so it should not be considered rigorous.

“However, we hope it provides a general sense of the problem and makes a useful contribution to the ongoing process of improving procurement of digital services.”

Government spending with Small, Medium, Enterprises has increased to over £10bn

Metcalfe said he will provide the results of the survey to the Government Digital Service (GDS) and hopes that the outcomes lead to a constructive discussion on ways to solve the common problems with framework opportunities, in the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework (DOS3).

The survey was conducted over three weeks in October 2017 on 31 opportunities using an audit tool built by the company, as part of a campaign to improve government procurement. The survey took in 2,996 votes.