Changes outlined in new EU procurement regulations, which recently came into force, are not going to be massively disruptive but they will be important – especially for those SMEs hoping to either begin selling to, or increase their contracts with, public sector bodies.
Most importantly smaller companies should begin preparing to go into direct competition for contracts with large suppliers, in an arena where they previously wouldn’t have had access. We know this is coming, and we know the opportunity this presents. What we need to do is make sure any SMEs interested in competing for these contracts spend the time before this legislation comes into force ensuring they are in the best position possible when it does.
In the run-up to the October 2018 deadline for mandatory implementation of e-procurement solutions by contracting authorities, there is an opportunity for technology providers and interested companies to work together to make sure the deadline passes with little disruption to what will - by then - be normal working procurement practice. Committing as an industry to follow the broader trend in enterprise-level IT to embrace open standards in computing will allow the e-procurement market to flourish. Ensuring interoperability between vendors will create a beneficial ecosystem, rather than a restrictive and closed system of locked-in services.
Within this ecosystem, there will undoubtedly be vendors vying for position in similar or the same sections of the market. I suggest this type of competition between vendors will result in a more diverse marketplace for buyers and higher quality solutions for the companies using e-procurement services.
While there are undoubtedly going to be voices among those supplying the public sector who are against the reforms, either in part or as a whole, I expect to see fewer dissenting voices arguing against the introduction of e-procurement systems in general. While there can be arguments against policy and legislations, the benefits of using technology in a dedicated procurement function are straightforward. E-procurement and automation will deliver increased efficiency, reduced costs, better risk management and more intelligent reporting functions.
There are many e-procurement solutions already on the market with experienced and innovative consultants available to offer guidance to companies new to the e-procurement arena. Given the strong public and private interest, I would expect to see these companies and consultants make contact sooner rather than later, as many interested SMEs adapt to the new regulations ahead of time to take full advantage of the platforms and opportunities available.
We’re heading in to a period of fundamental change in the UK public sector procurement, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the SME sector reacts to, and takes advantage of, the time they have before e-procurement becomes mandatory in October 2018.
☛ Pedro Paulo is CEO at Gatewit