There’s one constant in public sector tech: funding. You will think I’m barking mad, but in 11-years of running a PR company, we’ve never seen the money flowing into public sector tech stop. It does not happen.
The flow isn’t always clear, straight or obvious. Sometimes the funding is proactive and sometimes it’s in response to the unexpected. Sometimes the funding is less than the previous year. But the funding is there – every year.
Research from GlobalData [formerly Kable] earlier this year showed growth in spending on tech across public sector had slowed to near zero. In fact, it showed a slight decline ….BUT, it was still the ‘small sum’ of £18.75 billion in 2015/16.
We launched this business on the back of Tony Blair’s newly formed Office of E-Envoy; the Office was in place to help drive the UK online. Since then, we have seen other notable national projects like Building Schools for the Future, the National Programme for IT, Universal Credit, and so on. The list is endless and has driven both investment and growth in the supplier community. As the projects themselves end, new ones are born. It’s a constant cycle.
In the past 12-months, Cloud First has evolved. This means that when procuring new or existing services, public sector organisations should consider and fully evaluate potential cloud solutions first before considering any other option. This approach is mandatory for central government and strongly recommended to the wider public sector. It has given rise to literally thousands of cloud software suppliers – and a significant number aiming to win business in central government.
But, here’s the one thing that we have learned along the way. As these projects launch, suppliers flood the market. They all want a piece of the action – understandably.
Those suppliers already operating in the right part of the public sector are usually first to move. But, they will soon be followed by suppliers from other parts of public sector hoping to make the jump across.
Eventually, the international IT firms will arrive [usually from the US, New Zealand or Australia where public sector tech is similar] and lastly, bringing up the rear, will be those private sector suppliers with a tech product or service that ‘could just fit the bill’. We see this a lot.
But, it’s not that simple. Moving freely between sectors – applying your product or service to a new market – is tough. Even if you have a well-earned profile and reputation in local government doesn’t mean you will be a hit and first choice supplier in the NHS. Just because you’re a lead supplier in the US, doesn’t mean it will work here. Of course, if you carry a tarnished reputation, that will be sure to follow you everywhere!
Nobody in public sector is going to award a contract just because you have a relevant product or service. What’s the answer?
Focus on your own profile – i.e. better company awareness in the audience you’re trying to reach. This doesn’t happen over-night, so a concerted, continuous effort over months, and years, to build this is needed. There can’t be any knee-jerk actions.
Second, you need a reputation. This should be built primarily on the communication of success; customer references and proving where you have worked before is essential. Of course, you might not have these so early on and, those from other sectors won’t be relevant, so you’ll need to do more in the meantime. I suggest demonstrating knowledge and expertise in the project you’re trying to win through thought-leadership. This can help to build trust in your team – and possibly just enough trust to close a deal.
If you want to enter a new market or cross the divide, it’s time to focus on your profile and reputation in the audience that you’re trying to reach, otherwise it could seem like there’s no funding to be had. But, it’s there; trust me, it’s always there.