Six things government can change right now.

Govt has a long way to go with getting department's understanding how to do business with SMEs.

In the UK, Jadu has worked with Local and Central government. Local government is by far easier to do business with. Mainly because they have experience and as we all know, in almost all walks of life, wisdom and skill comes from experience.  

The previous government created much rhetoric about support for SMEs and some of that was true. There are some real advocates for small tech firms, like Stephen Allott, who we met recently. There have also been some pivotal moves forward - like the revolution that is the Digital Marketplace or G-Cloud. A day does not pass at Jadu without a conversation with customers about G-Cloud.

There are ways the new government can really deliver on their promises, but they will require genuine and focused attention as well as commitment:

    1. Listen.
      I mean really listen. The sort of listening that is empathetic and delivers actionable results.
    2. Build culture.
      Stop using contractors and consultants. No culture was ever built on temporary resources. The 4-year conversation cycle needs to be broken for a longer term strategy for supporting SME and being serious about it. Departments need to stop thinking in political tenures and start thinking ‘Built to last’ - Hire the right, passionate and committed people and let them do their jobs.

    3. Trust
      Let SMEs with experience of dealing with central government in high value projects compete on an even stage with large service integrators. Give them a voice and don’t expect them to come forward. Seek them out. Like Jadu, we are more than willing to give up our time to inform policy and help departments learn from their mistakes. Avoid encouraging large SIs to “take on” SMEs - they know even less about doing business with SMEs

    4. Avoid the “hard stop”.
      Something we encountered with a large department recently... we were engaged to build a huge digital service and once the first phase was completed, we’re told by the IT department that the project was coming to a ‘hard stop’. Budget had not been allocated beyond a drop dead date and so all work ceased. Except it couldn't stop - we weren't done.

    5. Please don't say “work at risk”
      The first time we heard these three words, it was a real shock. As a seasoned government supplier, we were used to contracts and agreement being the first stage. Local Government has this down to a fine art - no work commences in any industry without a contract - let alone major government digital services. We’ve been asked to work for weeks at end with no commercial, legal or financial cover. SME’s cannot do that since we are predominantly cash flow based and from a legal point of view, it’s an impossible request.

    6. Quality is reputational for an SME - not contractual. We’ve been frequently dangled carrots and sticks from ridiculously long payment terms to delayed contract renewals. This strategy may work with cash rich service integrators and IT companies, but for an SME, reassurance financially and legally are the cornerstones of business. They are not a reason to try and extract “maximum value”.  The incentives for an SME to deliver are built in to the relationship and automatic. That’s because every project is reputational as is the good will, marketing value and referencability. Those the the real rewards from winning a government contract.

As long as the new government can avoid its own past mistakes - and take SMEs deadly seriously, the eagerness, passion and commitment from small businesses like Jadu (and we have it in abundance) will be an inexhaustible supply.

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