Make tenders clear to help SMEs

2 September 2011

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2 September 2011 | Adam Leach

Public sector buyers must make specifications and requirements clear in tenders so small businesses understand exactly what is required.

Speaking to SM about how to increase contract opportunities for small firms, Hayley Addison, senior commercial policy manager at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), said: “Rather than SMEs having to guess what we want, we have to make sure that all our specifications and requirements are clear, so that anybody can look at them and understand them.

“If it’s not clear it could be putting SMEs at a disadvantage because they might not have the time or resources to clarify them or do some research,” she added.

“If we make it as clear as possible, then they can go, ‘Right, I know what they want so I’m going to respond to that tender because I’ve got it clear in my head that I can deliver this’.”

Addison, who is in charge of the DWP’s sustainable procurement team, believes one of the biggest barriers facing SMEs today is competing against the reputations that large providers have built up over years of working across government.

“We need to try and move away from that and look at what they’re actually going to deliver rather than who they are,” she said. “Obviously procurement is carried out in an open and transparent way, but SMEs might be put off bidding because they think one of the big players will win it.”

The DWP is already meeting with 50 of its major suppliers, who represent 80 per cent of overall spend, to agree ways to increase SME participation further down the supply chain. It is also conducting “product surgeries” to communicate contract opportunities to SMEs.


Hayley Addison will be speaking at the SME Public ProcurementConference in London on 15 September about the work the DWP has been doing to increase SME engagement.

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