Research highlights SME frustration with public sector procurement process

David Gray

A new study has revealed that a significant number of British SMEs believe the parameters set out in public sector tenders are actively discouraging them from pursuing public contracts.

The research was carried out by Edinburgh-based tender specialist AM Bid, creators of Ultimate Tender Coach – a new digital training platform designed to provide SME businesses with the skills required to secure public contracts.

As well as parameters being ‘too proscriptive’ and ‘stifling innovation in their responses’, other common complaints included having to satisfy arbitrary minimum turnover figures and demonstrating previous public sector experience.

46% of respondents cited understanding and navigating the complexities of the procurement process as a cause of frustration, while 48% were concerned with onerous compliance requirements and 41% felt that deadlines were too short.

“The fact that many business leaders think the way public tenders are procured is so proscriptive that the tenders themselves become a brake on innovation, should be a concern to public procurement professionals,” said David Gray, MD of AM Bid. “Part of the reason that the public sector goes out to market is to identify appropriate but novel approaches and to bring in new thinking and new ways of working. Many public procurement bodies do this extremely well, but there’s a common perception although tendering for public work is potentially lucrative, it is still very time consuming and arduous.

“The research shows that the vast majority of SMEs find the public procurement process challenging, and while the sector is already reacting to some of these barriers and trying to encourage greater SME engagement, we set out to use our bidding expertise to provide additional help.

“We created Ultimate Tender Coach to provide SMEs with the skills they need to win contracts that their businesses are very capable of delivering. It’s a unique digital learning programme informed by over 40 years of successful public tender winning experience and SME feedback on the challenges they face winning contracts. The programme provides the knowledge SMEs need to navigate the procurement process to develop compelling tender responses and win more business.

“We are also supporting the programme with weekly live coaching calls and a private members group, as we know SMEs want more than just online training. This means we can share news, industry insights, contract opportunities whilst building a community of SMEs committed to winning more public contracts.”