SMBs will benefit in the long term from the Gershon review, but no new powers will be given to the SMB IT advocate, according to Government Senator, Kate Lundy.
Speaking from Hanover in Germany where she was attending CeBIT 2010, the Senator acknowledged SMBs were suffering in the short term from changes to Government IT procurement made after the Gershon review.
“It’s a fair criticism that SMEs are observing a tightening up of the budgets available to engage them but that will change as the impact of Gershon washes through,” she said.
“As those large contracts come up for renegotiation, it will steer some of the annualised IT budgets towards SMEs that can offer transformative and innovative technologies and introduce new ways of achieving what the agencies are trying to do.”
Although Senator Lundy acknowledged there were some calls made by SMBs to bring on a quota system guaranteeing set percentages of Government contracts went to them, she claimed most of the industry wasn’t interested.
“I don’t hear a clamouring for a quota system for small business,” she said. “The problem is, a reference site with a Government contract is worth less if there’s an artificial quota in place.”
Instead, the Senator claimed the advocate’s main strength would lie it its ability to sway Government CIO mindsets using persuasion, access and an ability to speak its mind.
“Small businesses don’t like to make a complaint or cause a stir when confronted with these barriers because they’re always concerned it may reflect badly on them for the next opportunity,” she said.
On the issue of a Government fund to provide SMBs with professional indemnity insurance and reduce the burden on small to medium businesses, the Senator said she would look at any proposals presented by the IT industry.
“One of the most frustrating things is professional indemnity insurance requirement is often way beyond the value of the contracts. It’s an issue of education in the Government market about the perception of risk,” she said.
But the Senator said she would help the SMB IT advocacy position to recommend legislative changes to streamline the industry.
“The supplier advocate will understand the needs and issues for small business, challenges CIOs face and will also tell me what big policy settings require adjustment to achieve our goals,” she said.