Suppliers are optimistic about the £4bn Technology Products 2 framework after sessions were held by government this week outlining some of the planned changes.
The first Technology Products framework (RM1054) went live in November 2014 and is due to expire in the same month this year. In February, a Prior Information Notice (PIN) was published for its replacement – Technology Products 2 (RM3733) – in which the government said it expects the value to range between £3bn ad £4bn over two years.
This week, in association with trade group TechUK, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) held market engagement sessions with suppliers and buyers to update and consult them on the changes it plans to make to the framework.
Slides from the event show that the CCS said the replacement framework will be an "evolution, not a revolution" compared with its predecessor. But certain elements of Technology Products 2 will be different.
CRN understands one of the options on the table at the moment is to remove the cap on the number of suppliers allowed on each Lot.
"There will apparently be no cap on supplier numbers for each Lot," said Chris Farthing, managing director of Advice Cloud, who attended the event this week. "If you agree to terms and can prove quality, you'll be on."
This, he said, demonstrates a greater emphasis from the CCS on making the replacement framework suitable for SMEs.
"It will allow a lot more newer and agile suppliers to enter the marketplace and win business," he said.
Another idea being considered by CCS is that Technology Products 2 will contain an extra Lot, Lot 6 – Catalogue – which will be aimed mainly at SMEs. The Lot was included on the CCS slides shown at this week's event, but CRN understands this is not yet confirmed.
Farthing said: "They have a catalogue already called the Government e-Marketplace, but it is not very well used. So they are going to make something a lot more dynamic and easier to use and buy from," he said, stressing that although this was discussed in the meeting, it is yet to be confirmed.
Chris Swani, Bytes' head of public sector, welcomed the apparent increased focus on SMEs.
"I think it is a good thing because it offers those SMEs an introduction to selling into the public sector. The SMEs will get on via Lot 6, the catalogue. It will open up choice for public sector buyers themselves too."
On the slides shown at the supplier engagement events, the CCS outlined details of some of the feedback it has received so far from the 80 suppliers and 60 buyers to whom it has spoken.
Clearing up confusion
Encouraging more SMEs onto the framework was one request, as well as clarification about where to buy products which spanned both the hardware and software categories. The slides said suppliers and buyers found the latter point "confusing", an opinion Swani echoed.
"There has been confusion in the channel because there are some devices which are pre-loaded with software and their main driving force behind them is the functionality of the software," he said. "My analogy is that you can get software delivered via download, delivered on a disc in a plastic box, or you can get it delivered on a metal box. The fact the metal box needs powering up is somewhat beside the point because the value is held in the software."
The OEJU contract notice is set to be published next month, ahead of bids closing in July. Award notices will go out in September, before the first Technology Products framework's expiration.
Both Swani and Farthing are optimistic about the new framework.
"The market seems quite happy," Farthing said. "I think is was a very positive session – no-one came out shuffling their feet and sighing. There was a lot of good engagement."
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