The trials and the tribulations of smaller businesses never ceases to amaze me, forget the ISO27001 or GDPR, how about purchasing by one organisation through another’s preferred supplier list.

One of our members provides Software as a Service for national Governments around the world, and normally the purchasing process is straightforward. Bureaucratic but straightforward, ticking the boxes, checking the budgets, permissions, specifications and the usual nine-yards of paperwork. Its not unusual for this process to take six months to a year even for smaller projects, those corridors of power move slowly when spending public funds or so it seems.

In this instance there was a government purchaser, who shall remain nameless, who wanted their services onboarded in a few weeks to keep to political imperatives, yet still had to observe the public procurement rules and tick their boxes.

The solution they came up with was a good one, borrow someone else’s procurement scheme and use that.  The problem was legally they weren’t allowed to do that as the procurement scheme was Her Majesty’s government’s Digital Marketplace and that is only usable by UK public authorities.

The purchaser used the publicly available information, as in the suppliers listed, as the basis for their supplier identification, leading to a negotiated procurement taking place – over the Christmas holidays. Regardless of the holidays there were local country agents working on the implementation planning and data analytical structures necessary to achieve the Project’s Goals. On the 26th of December we started negotiating agreements and thankfully our translation provider excelled themselves with English Law into a different jurisdiction’s.

Our challenge was to help this member navigate a procurement exercise that had never been done before as far as we could ascertain, as fast as we could. It was an interesting exercise as purchaser and supplier were inventing it as they went with Business Comply ending up a kind of arbitrator in the middle assuring fair play from both sides and keeping the Goal in sight at all times.

The hard part was the selection criteria they used with suppliers ending up where commercial factors and benefits realisation became circular arguments in the life-cost for this project. What accentuated the pressure was the outcome would impact millions of people at a most fundamental level, directly on the quality of their lives hopefully for the better.

All was completed and the project’s package went to the President for approval in January, as for what happened next the details will no doubt emerge at some future point in time. Yes, Covid messed up their plans and added another layer to the complexity, but things will complete I am sure.  The moral of this tale is that even though the customer wanted to move really fast and made the effort to do so, external factors may undermine the momentum to do so.

Micro and Smaller Enterprises (MSME) seem to live permanently in the fast lane. Sometimes bending over backwards to win the contract and help the customer takes longer causing more stress than its worth. Saying no is hard to do but you do get to sleep at night and have holidays!

First published and Copyright July 2020

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