Many innovative digital solutions with the potential to accelerate transformation within the justice sector are being overlooked because of the way technology is procured. This means justice organisations are missing out on a wealth of SME experience and the ‘best in class’ solutions they offer.
How do I know this?

I work for a SME which specialises in innovative, technology-driven training solutions across multiple public sectors in the UK. We put a huge amount of effort into staying across the latest insights, trends and scientific research. We use this information, combined with our knowledge and experience of what works and what ‘sticks’, to inform how our solutions are designed, developed and delivered. Innovative learning solutions is what we do, and we do this exceptionally well, so it’s imperative we remain at the forefront in this specialist field.

Yet despite all this, and being able to evidence credibility in this area, we still find it extremely difficult to help some public sector organisations. Mostly, this is because training is a ‘bit-part’ in a much larger procurement exercise, typically focusing on technology or transformation. Few disagree that training is essential in these projects. But while it’s sometimes referenced in tenders, rarely do they ask ‘how’. So, responses need nothing more than a tick-the-box answer to confirm training will take place – no consideration to objectives and outcomes or how it’ll support the organisation and its employees when the programme reaches the business-as-usual stage. And there’s no option to bring innovation to the table – how you will help achieve better outcomes in a shorter timescale? This means everyone proposes the same solution and scores the same mark.
We lose out, but more importantly, procuring businesses miss out on innovative solutions, which would better suit their objectives and budget envelope.

It’s not just us, of course. Many SMEs working in niche, specialist fields have the same problem.

I’d really like to see greater pre-tender collaboration between SMEs and the justice sector before specifications are finalised. Only by listening carefully to the market to fully understand the opportunities available will the sector realise what’s possible and be able to access those best-in-class solutions which will drive real change.

We need to recognise that many specialist SMEs aren’t technology providers or management consultants, but still have a vital role to play in digital transformation. It’s well documented that software and change adoption fails without proper training and yet training doesn’t form part of the existing technology and consulting frameworks that support the justice sector. I’d like to see separate training lots, or frameworks for training, so proper consideration of training requirements are included within a bid. I’d argue that as a sector, we can’t afford not to do this because giving people the right skills plays a huge part in our individual and collective success.

As it stands, consortiums with forward-thinking partners who want to differentiate themselves from their competition, or provide solutions that go beyond the basic requirements, are our only option. That’s challenging, because organisations in this space are limited to proposing solutions that fit the current low-level of training scope – because that’s how the bid is scored. And they provide this themselves or through existing partners, which means the justice sector’s choice can be further limited.

We need to acknowledge that many SMEs, in their own right, are geared up to manage large, complex contracts, because it’s what we do in other sectors, and we do it with an agility that larger organisations struggle to match. When you combine our deep expertise with the fact that we tend to attract some of the most forward-thinking, innovative talent, it presents a strong case for creating a more level playing field for SMEs to form part of your solution.

The rhetoric is there on encouraging SMEs to get involved, but I don’t see the adoption of any new process or practice that will elevate the SME contribution to large contracts, nor for training to be valued as a requirement in its own right.

Only once SMEs are truly embraced and become a much bigger part of the justice sector’s procurement and contracts, will it reap the full benefits of the technology community. Then, digitisation will accelerate beyond the current scope of possibilities and who knows where that will take us?

To discuss any of these points further please contact Shirley Berry – or visit

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