Fujitsu Forum: Big firms working with startups allows government IT to be better delivered
The British government has become more realistic with its IT contract goals, having realised that shunning long contracts with large suppliers for short deals with smaller companies is no longer realistic, according to Fujitsu.
Former Cabinet Office minister and Government Digital Services figurehead Francis Maude had setup an objective to move away from lengthy deals costing millions to more agile agreements that tap into the innovation offered by startups.
But government departments are under certain circumstances allowed to opt for larger contracts if their IT demands cannot be fulfilled by smaller firms. This was the case with the Home Office which extended its contract with long-time government IT supplier Fujitsu for another two years.
Getting real with the deal
Fujitsu’s head of EMEA, Michael Keegan, told TechWeekEurope at Fujitsu Forum in Munich that, since the departure of Maude, the government has become more realistic with how it approaches IT procurement and the way it can access innovation from startups yet still gain systems that can keep up with its high levels of tech demand.
“It would be fair to say … that the Francis Maude experience in the IT industry, if I could talk on behalf of the whole industry in techUK, was a difficult one. But I think the IT industry is in a much better place now with the UK government; I think we have a very constrictive engagement with the UK government,” said Keegan, noting the government is now open to new ideas from IT suppliers and less dogmatic it is demands, though still presents a demanding customer for all technology firms.
Back in 2012 Fujitsu was given a hard time by Maude, who wanted to cut out what he considered to be wasteful IT contracts, resulting in the company being blacklisted by the coalition government.
However, Fujitsu has found its way back into government by finding ways to work with it in a more harmonious fashion. Keegan noted this now involves working with startups to bring the innovation they offer to government but through Fujitsu which has the scale and capacity to cope with stringent government demands and service level agreements.
He added that the way the government uses its contracts makes it very difficult for startups to fulfil the larger ones as they lack the funding or scale to do so.
“I think there’s a much more realistic understanding of what the real potential is here. The UK government like any other customer wants the innovation that startups can bring, but UK government has very high requirements for its suppliers to perform and the UK government likes to pay suppliers when they deliver not before,” said Keegan.
“Startups often have a great deal of difficulty financing their cashflow, and often find that they think that they have got the golden goose with a contract with the UK government, [but] they find that actually it’s really difficult.”
The presence of such large IT suppliers in the government space may raise eyebrows to how dedicated it is on changing the way its IT works. But despite such contracts and turmoil in GDS, there is faith that government can still change its approach to IT.
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