IT suppliers have been told they will learn their fate over the government's incoming commodity IT mega-framework early next week, mercifully just a few days later than originally planned.
Bidders were set to be informed yesterday as to whether they had secured a berth on Technology Products, the pan-government commodity hardware and software purchasing vehicle that will replace CITHS.
With yesterday's deadline coming and going, some were fearful that Technology Products may be subject to the same lengthy delays that have dogged other big IT frameworks recently.
However, that doesn't appear to be the case after Crown Commercial Service (CCS) emailed suppliers this morning to say there had been only a "small delay" to the published timetable of the intention to award the framework.
"We intend to issue notification of the intention to award early next week," said the email, which was leaked to CRN.
The news will come as a relief to suppliers and public sector buyers worried that Technology Products may not go live before CITHS – which had itself already been extended six months beyond its natural shelf life – expires on 31 October.
The initial timetable for Technology Products set out a go-live date of 15 September, allowing just six weeks' leeway between the two vehicles.
Any anxiety among bidders is understandable given the delays to several other large government IT frameworks set to come into force this year, including the sister Corporate Software Solutions (CSS) framework. CRN understands that agreements for an incoming ERP support framework, Enterprise Application Support Services, were awarded only yesterday, 10 weeks later than planned.
The fact that Technology Products appears to have been blown off course by a matter of days rather than weeks suggests the government sees it as a priority.
Set to be worth between £4bn and £6bn over its lifetime, Technology Products – originally dubbed IT Pass – will be split into four Lots. The first three, Technology Hardware, Packaged Software and Security Technology Products and Disposals, allow for a maximum of 15 suppliers. The fourth Lot, User Devices, allows for a maximum of seven suppliers.
The relief of one bidder CRN spoke to was palpable.
"It's reassuring they have given a timescale for it and that it has only been delayed by a few working days, which I hope they can stick to," said the bidder, who wished to remain anonymous.
Another reseller, also talking under the condition of anonymity, expressed similar sentiments. "With the extensive delays that have plagued other framework procurements it's a relief that the market will soon have clarity it badly needs – assuming we don't get the round of legal disputes that we did with CITHS, of course," he said.
Citing figures from market intelligence firm Kable, CCS estimates that the UK public sector spends about £1.3bn annually on commodity IT products, with 28 per cent of that spend – or £365m – currently captured through CCS frameworks. CCS developed Technology Products in collaboration with Pro5.
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