Civil servants doubt their departments have sufficient skills to manage IT suppliers – survey

2 June 2015

Only 20 per cent of civil servants believe their department has the skills to manage IT suppliers, according to a survey.

Research by techUK said that although most civil servants considered IT to be critical to delivering business plans, they doubt they have the right skills and culture within their departments to enable digital transformation of public services.

In a survey of 929 civil servants, 68 per cent of respondents said that having the right skills internally is critical to improving the procurement process. However only 20 per cent agreed their department has the skills and capabilities to manage suppliers.

The Conservative Party committed to raising the target for SMEs' share of central government procurement to one-third in its election manifesto, tech UK said.

However, 33 per cent of civil servants are unsure if their departments want to procure more services from SMEs, and only 19 per cent said they have access to a wide range of suppliers, the research found. Only 18 per cent believed there was enough pre-procurement engagement.

Julian David, chief executive of techUK, said that it was good to see widespread acknowledgement of the benefits of technology, but more engagement with industry and innovation was needed. “Civil servants' lack of confidence is demonstrated in the focus on getting the best out of existing technologies and approaches rather than seeking to embrace new and disruptive technologies from a range of suppliers," he said.

The Public Services Board of techUK has identified areas that it feels the government needs to address, including delivering better public services for less through smart use of digital tech, as well as developing the culture, skills and capability to become a more demanding buyer.

Damien Venkatasamy, chair of the Public Services Board at techUK, said: "Much progress has been made in the approach to digital government over the last five years. This includes the creation of the Government Digital Service as an agent for sparking innovation, easier and faster procurement through G-Cloud, and the opportunities from open data.

"The challenge for the government is to build on these achievements and deliver truly digital public services, through end-to-end transformation."

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