An independent consultancy has been set up to help resellers unlock the multibillion-pound opportunity in the local-government arena.
The Alliance of eGov Suppliers will act as an advisor to IT suppliers attempting to sell into the sector. Companies that subscribe will be advised about the needs of the sector to support them in making bids for local-government contracts.
Behind the initiative is Ian Dell, the Alliance's supplier liaison officer, who was involved in setting up a database of suppliers and supplier forums as part of the CRM and Enterprise Workflow National Project, initiated by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM).
Dell said: "After consultation with the ODPM, suppliers and local authorities about what happened when the National Project supplier forums were completed, there was resounding demand for them to continue, so we decided to launch this initiative."
The Alliance already boasts 18 members, including BT, Mitel, Capita and Onyx, and resellers, including exclusive Microsoft partners. It claims to promote them to local authorities equally, regardless of size.
Simon Aron, managing director of operations at reseller Eurodata Systems, said he welcomes any organisation that helps the channel win business.
"Despite going out to public tender, contracts are usually won by GCat-accredited or incumbent suppliers, even if they are not doing a good job," Aron said. "It will be useful to have someone from the other side supporting the channel."
Rod Matthews, head of information society technology at Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, said there is a need for a continued exchange of information between suppliers and local authorities.
"There is a lot of innovation in small companies and they are phenomenally committed," he said. But he warned that joining the Alliance is no guarantee of business.
Local government has been a high-growth IT sector since Tony Blair's 2005 deadlines for electronic services delivery were set. Industry watchers believe the public sector will continue to invest in IT long after 2005.
"The deadlines are only the start of bigger, more revolutionary changes, such as linking up local and central government," said Matthews. "I hope initiatives such as the Alliance of eGov Suppliers will help smaller companies become the suppliers of choice, and promote the idea of them partnering with each other on local-government deals."
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