App gives smaller firms a better chance of bidding
A joint bid from Merthyr Tydfil CBC and Vale of Glamorgan Council won the second prize, worth the equivalent of £75,000, from the O2 Future Fund. The idea of the project is to streamline their procurement processes for smaller enterprises
Merthyr Tydfil estimated that £10m of its annual spending is on goods and services worth less than £50,000 in individual contracts, and found it can be difficult to track down what went where.
A main strand of the bid was to develop smartphone apps to improve communication between the councils and their suppliers.
Under the project, businesses will be able to receive information on future tenders directly to their phones, and to use the app to seek partner firms that wish to team up on a tender. A web portal will provide the beating heart of the service.
Crucially, the system will be both scalable and replicable - meaning it has the potential to be taken up quickly across the UK.
O2 will lead on app development and the two local authorities will work on an open-source methodology.
During the first phase of the project, the councils will be able to advertise goods and services opportunities worth between £10,000 and £50,000 via a phone app, along with more traditional procurement processes.
SMEs were themselves involved in developing the project. It soon became clear they were often frustrated with the existing procurement process. One local business, a safety sign specialist, told the councils: “Anything that offers a simple, constructive and time- saving way to tender for council contracts can only be a good thing.”
The councils, ambitiously, aim to have the apps and web portal online by June 2013. They anticipate the number of face-to-face visits and return telephone calls regarding quotations to fall by half by December 2013, and would like a 75% improvement in SME satisfaction with procurement opportunities by June 2014.
David Vining, head of strategic ICT at the Vale of Glamorgan, says the councils were “put through their paces” by the O2 Future Fund judges.
“It was an exciting process and the presentation to a Dragon’s Den-style board was quite challenging,” he says. “We all got a shock when we realised we had come second out of 40 councils who had entered the competition - a great result for two small Welsh local authorities.”
But Mr Vining is clear that winning was only the start. “The real work starts now as we work with O2 to develop a range of mobile apps to help deliver services in more innovative ways,” he says.
The judges said…
“Merthyr Tydfil and Vale of Glamorgan’s joint bid was really well written and presented. Across the two councils they have identified their local SME communities as being key to driving local economic growth, and will be providing these businesses every opportunity to get closer to and bid for more local authority work.”
The Future Fund from O2 invited councils to bid for support for a digital project that would improve staff efficiency or services to their community. The winners will receive O2 consultancy time, services and technology to help make their projects a reality. LGC is proud to support the fund as a media partner.