Selling to the Public Sector from the NZ owned Digital and Technology perspective

NZRise members have recently been enthusiastically discussing “10 of my secrets on how to sell to the UK Public Sector” by Mary McKenna, a Tech Entrepreneur and Investor from Ireland.

The article resonates strongly with New Zealand owned Digital and Technology businesses as the advice could be equally be written from a NZ owned SME’s perspective. Mary starts with a question we often ask ourselves

“Why do I even want to sell my products or services into the public sector”?

The short answer is because they are the largest local procurer of digital services and products. NZ companies have few other chances to prove their worth in this country. As a monopoly buyer and governor of our economic conditions the Public Sector has a strong role to play in supporting our fast growing Digital and Technology industry.

“If you aren’t already part of the discussion, it’s extremely unlikely you are going to win as this isn’t a level playing field”.

Many NZRise members however, have answered this question by no longer trying to engage with local Public Sector agencies, giving up as a result of cost, indecision and a (perceived) un-level playing field.

Mary McKenna describes the UK playing field as heavily weighted in the favour of the largest businesses in our sector, describing the “big boys” as “comfortable, well established, making a fortune, well set up to respond to tenders and indeed at the table (or at least in the room) when the specifications are being drawn up”.

The UK National Audit Office figures confirming that 51% of their IT spend goes to just 5 suppliers – we note the New Zealand Government do not provide this same level of transparency on expenditure.

Where this article resonates the most is through her 10 Tips themselves:

  1. Know thy customer
  1. Procurement
  1. Beware Early Success
  1. Host your own niche events
  1. Working Capital
  1. Avoid Competitions
  1. Make it easy for customer to buy from you
  1. Fix your marketing
  1. Don’t give free trials
  1. Word of Mouth

“Let’s put all that to one side for a moment and assume there’s enough loose change left around the edges of the public sector to make it worthwhile for the SME to have a go.”

We would like to thank Mary for this article. It is reassuring to find we here in NZ are not alone in experiencing this Public Sector procurement behaviour but it is also disappointing to see the same processes and behaviours occurring in the United Kingdom.

The Public Sector has a role to play in providing a platform for NZ owned companies becoming successful on the world stage, our resonation with Mary’s 10 tips sadly highlighting the position we are in is in-fact quite the opposite.

NZRise members do understand the legislative and trade agreement constraints necessitating no preferential purchasing from NZ owned companies – yet observe often the process of honouring these precludes those same companies from selling to the NZ Public Sector. We note there are successful digital economies where active government support for Small and Medium Enterprise (SME’s) occurs within the constraints Free Trade Agreements dictate.

As the discussion continues on Public Sector engagement challenges NZRise members suggest both the UK and NZ Governments should take a fresh look at Public Sector procurement strategies and purchasing decisions. It is in all of our interests to work collaboratively towards a solution where SME’s, startups and the “big boys” can all operate, resulting in a thriving sector both domestically and on a world stage.

Victoria MacLennan on behalf of NZRise

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One Reply to “Selling to the Public Sector from the NZ owned Digital and Technology perspective”

    Mary McKenna says:

    Thank you so much for writing this piece Victoria & highlighting the challenges that appear to face SMEs globally when selling into both local & central government. My blog has definitely struck a chord with many people (as can be seen from the content of the comments on there) & many others have sent me notes stating that similar occurs with charities and the National Health Service.

    I must admit I had assumed that you guys would have had public sector procurement nailed long ago. It’s a massive missed opportunity on the part of administrations everywhere when they fail to include startups and SMEs as part of their “business as usual” ecosystem – they’re missing out on tons of innovation and they’re paying through the nose to those “big boys” I mentioned instead of obtaining great value for money.

    It’s great to have this sort of dialogue between the UK & New Zealand so thank you again for finding my piece & connecting. Let’s continue our conversation!

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