CCS technology chief: ‘There are still pockets of legacy spend that are a complete waste of money’

Crown Commercial Service pledges to do more to get SMEs involved in government IT supply and vows to make itself ‘easier to do business with’

The technology chief of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has said that government still needs to do more to ensure smaller firms are able to win business through some of its biggest IT procurement frameworks, despite progress having been made in recent years.

Niall Quinn, strategic category director, technology at CCS, said that too much money is still being funnelled into outdated IT contracts even after a concerted Whitehall effort to improve these deals

“There are still pockets of legacy spend out there that are a complete waste of money – deals that were signed 10 years ago,” he added.

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The CCS tech boss said that, while disassembling such contracts and creating new frameworks featuring more SMEs was a good first step, more needed to be done to bring small firms up to speed on how to win individual deals.

“All the big systems integrator contracts.. are being broken up,” he said. “We have allowed SMEs to bid on these frameworks, but how do we help them be successful? Inside CCS we have reduced the [complexity] inside the framework system. But we can only spend a limited amount of time to help them [individually]. 

He added: “We are trying to do more webinars to try and make sure they do not sink before they can swim. There are a lot of [SMEs] out there that are trying to bring innovation into the public sector.”

Quinn, who was addressing an audience of public sector IT professionals at the recent Cyber Security Summit, hosted by PublicTechnology’s parent company Dods, added that government IT chiefs should also take steps to work more closely with their suppliers – and their peers.

“Reuse between departments is a big thing – the more demand we can get in from the various departments for products, the better price we can get,” he said. “Much more important is better engagement with suppliers, better engagement with SMEs, and better use of the money that is available.” 

He added that he was determined to make CCS more user-friendly. 

“You may think sensible procurement is an oxymoron, and I am sure you all chafe against your procurement departments,” he said. “But we are trying to make CCS a much easier place to do business with, and we reiterate our frameworks all the time.

“If we have ever been difficult, then feed back to us.”

Elsewhere, Quinn stressed the importance of ensuring security was an innate part of the procurement process and the technology being procured. 

“We work very closely with GDS; part of the digital agenda is to build security into all their products from the beginning”, he said. “But security should never be a goal in itself – it is a process. And security should never compromise usability. It should not require extensive configuration, and it should be work-reliable.”

As the threat landscape becomes more diverse and sophisticated, Quinn encouraged public sector technology professionals to take a prudent approach to security investments and strategy.

“Follow the pack – do not go with the latest technology,” he said. “Document everything, always follow NCSC [National Cyber Security Centre] standards, and test drive in development [environments].”

He added: “The rules of the game have changed.”

Sam Trendall

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