5th January 2017

Gummer commits to SMEs, GDS and digital transformation

In his first speech at TechUK last week, new Cabinet Office Minister, Ben Gummer outlined his vision, revealed new working guidelines and stated that the government is quickly moving forward in delivering its digital strategy.

Introducing the Supplier Standard
The Minister announced the Supplier Standard, a “two-way commitment” to “build and support collaborative and constructive relationships between the government and the tech industry”. These new working guidelines for digital and technology service providers outline the expectations government has of its suppliers, as well as its commitments to them in return.

The standards aim to complement the government’s new way of delivering services. As well as collaboration between the public sector and industry, it will focus on improving user experiences and transparency. The Supplier Standard has six principles which will underpin supplier contracts:

  • User needs first
  • Data is a public asset
  • Services built on open standards and reusable components
  • Simple, clear, fast transactions
  • Ongoing engagement
  • Transparent contracting

The new supplier standard is just a starting point. We want suppliers, both current and potential, to take note of the key principles and use them to help in the bidding process for Government IT and tech projects,” said Gummer.


Commitment to SMEs
The Minister also promised to push government and SME projects, doing “everything possible” to reach the target that a third of all business will be awarded to SMEs by 2020. This included making the way to do business easier. “My message to those who operate and work in this sector is this: no matter how large or how small your company is, this Government is open for business. We are a government that wants to work for you.”

Customer service and accessibility
In an impassioned speech, Minister Gummer stated his commitment to bring government in line with the way successful modern companies deal with their customers, namely that they are responsive and accessible.

“The most important person in the relationship of when someone looks on their iPhone or approaches government on their laptop, it’s not the government, it’s the person making their enquiry. It’s a more important relationship than the customer relationship that has been central to the digital transformation of the economy over the last 25 years. It’s actually a sacred relationship. It’s a relationship that makes freedom, democracy and liberty possible.

It’s a scandal therefore that we have not done as much as other parts of the economy to change that relationship, to enable government to be a servant of the people in the way that so many businesses have seen the opportunity to make companies better responsive to their customer needs.”

Support for GDS
While the Minister gave GDS his support saying it was “one of the things we’re most proud of in the Cabinet Office.” He added that he felt it “was not doing all that it could” due to having sufficient resources or power. One of his first acts, therefore, has been to commission “two very large pieces of work that it wasn’t doing before.”

This speech demonstrated the government’s ongoing commitment to move towards more delivery-focussed, collaborative and agile services. This means going beyond delivering a more efficient alternative. It will be interesting to see how key initiatives such as shared services, Government-as-a-Platform and investment in back-office systems fare in this new phase for government digital transformation.