IT services SMEs score with NSW scheme

The NSW government has launched a new online ICT services accreditation scheme for vendors — a move that could give SMEs a headstart in the lucrative government market.

The NSW government has launched a new online ICT services accreditation scheme for vendors — a move that could give SMEs (small and medium enterprises) a head start in the lucrative government market.

To become accredited, suppliers will need to prove their technical process, available capacity, provide references, give information on their quality processes, be compliant with government contract terms and conditions, and have acceptable rates.

Previously, procurement of ICT services was managed via panel arrangements: "Over the years, these have become restrictive for both suppliers and buyers. It is now time to update many of these arrangements," the tender document from the NSW government said.

Now, however, a Web portal will support NSW procurement. Government agencies will be able to reach suppliers who have been approved under the scheme as well as put out requests for quotes, with vendors also able to reply using the online system.

Would-be government suppliers will have to self assess their knowledge and performance on a range of capabilities when they register for the portal, helping CIOs looking for particular skills to find them easily.

"It is imperative that accredited suppliers provide a true reflection of their capabilities on the ICT services portal as agencies may proceed to shortlist or select a supplier based on the information provided on the ICT services portal," the tender document states.

When projects finish, agencies will leave feedback describing the supplier's performance, in order to make sure vendors rate themselves correctly.

Amongst other goals, the government hopes to reduce the total cost of government ICT, simplify methods of procurement for suppliers and agencies, improve vendor performance and evaluation as well as creating opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Rob Mackinnon, advisor at analyst firm IBRS, applauded the move, saying it will make the government easier to deal with and give it more options when it comes to small jobs.

Since the portal will drastically shorten the process for finding specialist skills, the time saved by employees will be money in the bank for the government. "It'll save the foot slog, the internet equivalent of knocking on doors," he said.

Specialist SMEs will also be cheering, according to Mackinnon: "It allows small niche consultancies which have strong competencies in narrow areas to become quite visible," he told ZDNet.com.au.

Suppliers are limited as to the size of the contracts they can take on by their years of experience and size of revenues and will be split into three groups which will be able to handle small, medium or large projects.

Applications for the scheme will open in July and finish in August, after which the scheme will run for at least three years. The government is currently receiving expressions of interest for participation in the program.

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