Andrew Ryan
November 27, 2017

We must let 1000 SME's bloom

Procurement

We must let 1000 SME's bloom

Brian Dargen: Strategy Director at Mentally Friendly

Although government has begun to embrace digital transformation, there’s still some way to go. Eventually, disruption will transform not only the way government delivers services, but also the way it formulates policy, said Brian Dargan, strategy director at digital consultancy, Mentally Friendly.

“We want to see how human-centred design thinking can affect government policy, and not just the policy outputs,” said Mr Dargan. “Design thinking will help policy makers set policy, make better policy and formulate it faster.”

Mr Dargan is speaking on a panel discussion at this week’s Open Opportunities Forum, in Canberra. The topic of the discussion is “Rethinking the way Government works with industry – what do the new dynamics of government procurement strategies mean for sourcing and innovation.”

Government is slowly moving away from its traditional procurement model, where large outsourcers and international businesses won the bulk of government work. Mr Dargan said that much of what government needs to do in this area is happening in terms of digital services delivered to citizens, and this digital-first focus is now feeding into the procurement process.

“The shift in procurement is now allowing newer entrants – such as Mentally Friendly – into the space,” he said. “These are new providers who did not have access to government before.”

The new procurement marketplace is a far more level playing field, and one with greater transparency, he said. This allows government to explore new opportunities and smaller service providers to display their capabilities.

However, he said, there is still some resistance within government to this new, more open playing field. Mr Dargan said that the old quote about no-one ever getting fired for buying IBM still rings true, particularly when it comes to government relationships with big outsourcers like Accenture.

The good news, both for government and smaller agencies, is that the new players have economies where the larger companies would simply regard it as a rounding error on their balance sheets. For more nimble consultancies, these are significant amounts of work, and it means that government is getting the best people from these agencies working on their tasks.

“For government, it is winning twice when it comes to using smaller players,” said Mr Dargan. “They are getting better value for money, and they are getting the most senior people from these smaller companies to work on their contracts. When you’re dealing with a large consultancy, if it’s a sub-million-dollar contract, you aren’t getting the senior people working on it.”

Mr Dargan emphasised how smaller agencies like his provide value for money. Mentally Friendly uses an agile methodology and works in what he describes as two-week ‘sprints.’

“We cost the project in terms of people and resources in two week blocks,” he said. “This allows transparency of pricing, and our customers know what they are getting for the money they spend.”

And the name Mentally Friendly? He said it comes from the agency’s ability to engage the brain and the mind to complete a task. That, and he said the name puts a smile on your face.

Mentally Friendly is a valued partner of the Open Opportunity Forum being held on November 30 at the National Press Club in Canberra. It brings together over 100 digital leaders from across the public sector to discuss, debate and define the future of digital services across the Australian government.

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