Opinion: Speed dating matches govt with vendors.

It’s been referred to as speed dating but it certainly seems to have achieved its purpose. More than 700 small to medium-sized businesses got to briefly present to 15 government departments this month at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre in a day entitled Meet the Buyer.
It wasn’t just about pitching their wares. There were plenty of things to be learned about the way to deal with government agencies, each of whom typically fielded two representatives who were essentially acting as conduits back to the agency and marrying providers up with the appropriate people within their agencies.
There were also a series of briefing sessions during the day on how to do business with government.
ICT vendors were just one of a group of industry sectors which took the opportunity. They first had to register, outlining their capabilities and which agencies they’d like to meet. The agencies then chose those which were appropriate, and formal invitations were issued.
Around two-thirds of those who applied were successful in getting at least one meeting scheduled.
Each got to meet for 15 minutes, followed by a five-minute transition period before the next meeting.
“It was really innovative,” says one ICT vendor. “It avoided a lot of hit and miss getting to the right people.
“They’re trying to get suppliers to engage much earlier in the procurement process. That’s really good for smaller businesses, which otherwise might be inclined to walk away from tenders when they see the big players responding.
“If this results in only one in 10 doing better business, it is justified. Not to mention the public relations value for the government.”
Several other attendees spoken to by Computerworld had similar views.
“They’re opening the door to innovation,” said one.
It’s likely now that attendees will be surveyed as to the success of the day. The Ministry of Economic Development’s manager of government contracts, John Ivil, has been quoted elsewhere as saying the event could become an annual one, depending on demand, and perhaps be held in a different centre each year.
With all-of-government and syndicated agreements progressively being put in place, the face of procurement is changing. It certainly seems to be providing an opportunity for smaller companies.
That should be good news for those who have developed home-grown, innovative technologies, which may now be duly considered, rather than departments defaulting to the often over-expensive offerings from the multinationals.
This should also go some way to addressing the concerns of NZ Rise, the non-profit incorporated society formed by a group of New Zealand IT company business leaders with the aim of improving the global competiveness of the New Zealand IT industry.
NZ Rise has been particularly concerned about the cost of government and local body tender processes, in particular how request for proposals discriminate against New Zealand companies.
Meet the Buyer will hopefully avoid the process of responding to Expressions of Interest or Requests for Information before an RFP is issued. Often the EOI or RFI becomes a fishing expedition that requires nearly as much work to respond to as it can take to respond to an RFP.

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