Scott Somenthal, head of public sector, NFON UK, examines how the channel can work with the public sector.
If approached correctly, the public sector represents a big opportunity. It is the largest spender on IT and telecoms. £18.1 billion was transacted through the Crown Commercial Services in 2019/20 and £3.2bn via G-Cloud. The government is committed to spend £1 in every £3 with small businesses, so you don’t have to be a large systems integrator to get a slice of this pie.
The public sector opportunity
There are a host of changes taking place in the public sector. Pre Covid19 the UK Government had published a Cloud First policy and was encouraging public sector organisations to adopt a smarter working strategy. The Government Property Agency (GPA) has stipulated they wanted 100% smarter working adoption by the end of 2022.
The outbreak of the pandemic accelerated the push for flexible working environments and highlighted to many public sector organisations that their on-premise communications solutions were not fit for purpose to enable Smarter Working. This presents a big opportunity for suppliers of cloud-based telephony and unified communications.
Secondly, it’s worth noting that more ICT spend in public sector is now decided outside of the tradition IT department and being driven by the business lines and those responsible for organisation wide transformation programmes. Procurement can be heavy in red tape and very frustrating, it therefore stands to reason that all parties, including public sector procurement, the channel and vendors have a vested interest in ensuring that procurement exercises are successful from initiation to implementation.
The products and services that the public sector buy will enable them to successfully implement the policies and strategies decided by the government of the day. If you take smarter working for example, there is a reason why this is the responsibility of the GPA. The government and public sector are the largest estate owner(s) in the UK, they will always invest to achieve their objectives. The public sector has realised their workplace isn’t a place their employees go, but where outcomes can be achieved. This is what they’ll spend huge amounts of money on in the future – as well as on supporting services like contact centre enablement, recording and reporting.
There has been a huge uplift in Microsoft Teams and Cloud Video solutions such as Zoom since the pandemic as public sector organisations push to deliver a smarter working solution to achieve their objectives. In the GPAs case, this will help them rationalize their estate and make significant cost savings.
Shadow IT is also hot in the public sector right now. This area has grown massively during the pandemic as different departments scrambled to get staff working from home in short timescales and not always in conjunction with their central IT departments. This has led to ‘sticky plasters’ being put over their existing infrastructures which is a great opportunity for the channel as invariably a long-term solution will need to be deployed sooner rather than later.
It is possible to gain traction with public sector organisations outside of public sector frameworks. Organisations can avoid a framework if their project is expected to come under a certain value threshold, whilst some public sector organisations run their own tendering process, which they advertise through European and UK purchasing portals.
However, getting authorized needn’t be an onerous process. There are a lot of public sector frameworks available to the channel. Some provide purchasing opportunities across the whole public sector; others may be relevant to one area such as education or healthcare. Many vendors, like NFON, are happy to support partners with a potential framework submission they need to become accredited.
Outside of the public sector frameworks, it’s also important to note that many public sector organisations require suppliers to be accredited to certain standards such as ISO27001 and ISO9001. Again – vendors could and should with this.
Making hay while the sun shines
Here at NFON we are committed to setting the bar in public sector sales and engagement. But there is plenty of pie to go around. Last 2020 was the year that fundamentally changed the way we work. Remote working has been proved and the public sector has a lot of work to do to successfully deliver these new models.
As we move to the next stage of the pandemic and move towards a more ‘smarter hybrid’ working environment – to enable the public sector to save costs, enable staff well-being and offer their current and future staff an enhanced work life balance, the public sector needs partners that can support them and deliver. We are up for the challenge, are you?