SMB IT suppliers have highlighted the benefits they bring to the government after concerns were raised earlier this week about their ability to deliver high-profile government projects.
On Monday, a Financial Times story claimed insiders in the departments of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and Energy and Climate Change (DECC) reported trouble with networks, internet and email since their IT provision was taken over by small suppliers – which some branded as "shambolic".
The complaints allegedly prompted respective ministers for BIS and DECC, Vince Cable and Ed Davey, to take the issue to the top and alert the prime minister.
Over the past year, the government has been keen to shout about its plans to break supplier oligopoly in favour of working with smaller, more agile IT providers that can provide better value for money and help it save cash.
SMBs have come out in force to defend themselves and insisted that one hiccup should not put the government off working with smaller suppliers.
Peter Groucutt, managing director of government supplier Databarracks, said the allegations are damaging.
"[It] discredits the tireless work which has already been done in providing SMBs with greater opportunities to support the IT needs of government departments," he said.
"It is important to recognise that the shift towards public sector and government departments embracing IT services from SMBs is still very much in its infancy. There were always going to be challenges under any new procurement process, but rather than criticising the work achieved so far, now is the time for a real push towards increasing awareness of the benefits that can be seen through services offered."
Kate Craig-Wood (pictured), managing director of Memset, agreed and said the recent issue in government was most certainly an isolated one.
"Obviously as an SMB I find this very irritating," she said. "[SMB] is a huge category... and we are tarred with the same brush. It sounds like the procurement was not scoped out well and went wrong. The government could be to blame as much as the suppliers," she said.
She added that the vast majority of SMBs have no problems at all when working with the government, which should keep sight of its long-term cost-saving goals.
"It is an ambitious agenda and I expect there to be issues, but the prize is so big at the end," she said.
Bigger not always better
Databarracks' Groucutt added that SMB suppliers can often offer more value than their larger counterparts.
"The flexibility and innovative nature of SMEs and their solutions means a complete turnaround in the way the public sector has traditionally bought and implemented its IT systems," he said. "They are no longer committed to long-term, expensive contracts and are now exposed to a whole new set of solutions and companies they have previously never had access to.
"It seems unjust, therefore, to condemn the efforts so far before [the SMB agenda] has been given a real chance to prove its worth."
Managing director of SMB reseller Computerworld Wales, Shaune Parsons, agreed and said others in central government have praised his firm's work.
"We do a lot in central government departments where they say what we do for them, the big suppliers couldn't do – we're more flexible," he said.
"I'd be more than happy to meet any of these ministers and allay any fears they have – they are totally wrong. We are more flexible, do a better job and care more. The trouble is, with one company you've got no competition – they don't drive prices down and are not getting the best value."
Services provider Networks First's managing director Tom Mulvaney (pictured) said regardless of a supplier's size, government business should be awarded on merit.
"Within any categorisation of businesses you will have those who deliver well and those who disappoint," he said. "Proper due diligence in selecting a partner is key. While supplier selection processes can be detailed and lengthy, it gives SMBs the opportunity to exhibit how good they can be.
"Having worked with service integrators and large outsourcers for over 10 years, I have seen how organisations can benefit when they outsource to SMB organisations. To deliver successfully into the public sector you need to be able to demonstrate flexibility and value."
Infrastructure provider says international sales now make up 51 per cent of its revenue
Suzanne Chappell of TMS plans sailing venture after selling Oxfordshire-based TMS to acquisitive Chess
Withdrawal of credit insurance by some providers a 'reflection' of current challenge facing IT sector, according to MD Steve Soper
SMART's UK managing director joins Lenovo to boost SMB business