How to score a UK government public sector IT contract

Public sector contracts for IT can be some of the most lucrative out there, and will offer a large amount of exposure for your company. Plus, you get the satisfaction of keeping our country ticking over, and bringing it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.

Opportunities with the public sector could involve IT for organisations such as the central government, NHS, local authorities, the Welsh or Northern Irish Assemblies, or even universities and colleges – all of whom are falling over themselves to modernise their technology and bring better services to their users.

But how can you give yourself the best chance of getting a public sector or government contract?

1. Use Contracts Finder

The government's Contracts Finder is an online tool to help you find information about contracts with the government and its agencies that are available for private companies to pick up. You just need to register online, and you're golden.

With the Contract Finder, you can search for opportunities worth over £10,000, and also find details about smaller contracts. You can also find out what's in the pipeline for the future so you can get your pitch ready in good time, and check out details of previous contracts and the people who nabbed them.

2. Contact the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)

The SBRI is a well-established initiative that helps "to connect public sector challenges with innovative ideas from industry", and supports companies in their bids for public sector projects. It can help secure new business opportunities for companies, and provides small and medium-sized enterprises a route to the public sector market for their ideas. Why not check it out?

3. Go through the process

This might sound simple, but most potential public sector suppliers simply don't bother to apply. Once you've found a public sector IT contract you might want to bid for, read it carefully to decide whether your business can do the work.

Before you bid, you may have to send an "expression of interest". This is an initial stage of the tendering process that helps buyers to see who's interested in bidding and draw up a short-list of possible suppliers. You may be asked for information about your finances and experience, or references from previous clients. Be professional, and make sure all communications with potential buyers are proofread by multiple people.

If you're put on the short-list, you'll get an 'Invitation to tender' or a contract notice inviting you to bid for the contract.

4. Form a consortium

A consortium is where a group of suppliers agree to work together to tender for contracts to deliver public services, and can be a good way to increase confidence in your ability to deliver services.

Be careful, though: a consortium will only work effectively if it holds a shared vision, contains members with good cooperation and communication skills, and all parties have a clear understanding of the risks involved. Forming a consortium is time consuming, has costs attached, and contains many potential pitfalls.

However, if you coordinate it properly, there can be many benefits, and it can improve your chances of securing those lucrative government contracts.

You can find a government guide on forming consortiums here.

Image: Flickr (Hauzen)