Accreditation of ICT Suppliers
Although when developing the ICT Supplier Standard nine segments were identified to cover the ICT sector it was recognised that three of the segments would have a very low priority for development because they address specialisms that are either covered by other standards (e.g. in the ‘Broadcasting’ segment) or are not of strategic importance to the region (e.g. the ‘Wholesale’ segment). In addition, their non-inclusion does not affect the creditability or financial viability of the Standard.
In addition to the advantages the Standard brings to the general economic well being of the regional economy, the Standard offers other distinct, high value benefits. At its outset the Standard was primarily seen to offer successful companies a marketing advantage. However, subsequent to the detailed development of the pilot scheme which saw substantial positive changes made to the Standard’s form and approach, businesses applying for the Standard today work through a rigorous business improvement process that, besides certification, makes them more robust, more sustainable, and better at innovating.
Testament to the value of certification by offering third parties a high value and objective view of their certified capabilities – in effect a due diligence process – has resulted in insurance brokers offering to reduce their premiums. It is also considered that banks will be better able to calculate their business risk and the government to offer export credit (reported in the Spearmint report commissioned by the ICT Cluster on the ICT Supplier Standard).
As evidenced in the Regeneris report Building Innovation Capacity in West Midlands ICT SMEs through Improved Business Processes, the target fee of £2000 to attain the Standard is extremely competitive compared to the costs required to provide traditional business support. The fee includes consultancy support and advice and a proven work book that allows the business itself to develop the systems, processes and procedures. A fee of £750 per annum is to be charged for two annual light touch reviews. The accreditation process requires that in the fourth year the business recommences this three-year cycle with the full review at a fee of £2000. The total fee charged for the Standard is therefore £3,500 over a period of three years.
In summary, the partially developed Standard now needs to be further developed in order that the quality management, marketing and business improvement benefits made available for the three initial segments are both maintained and extended to the remaining three strategically important and relevant segments. The potential gain in GVA to the region through this action is considerable.
The ICT Cluster Opportunity Group have further identified that the Standard addresses issues associated with promoting innovation. The 2007 ICT Directory & Strategic Survey showed that a number of barriers existed for SMEs engaged in innovation; the greatest of which was managing the innovation process (60% replying).
In scoping an international trade project on behalf of the ICT Cluster, SQW reported that UKTI had found in its survey that managing the international trade process was also a major issue. It is now realised that the ICT Standard’s ‘3Ps’ (People, Practices, and Performance) applied holistically give the ICT SME the rigor and structure required to tackle these issues with lasting impact.
On the national stage, BIS’ new Business Support Simplification Programme – Solutions for Business package includes a ‘Transformational ICT Scheme’ (with all RDAs participating) in which the ICT Supplier Standard is being considered to be featured as part of AWM’s contribution towards the initiative.
Strategic and tactical regional policy demands
As stated and evidenced above, the demand for the project was initially identified in the SQW report commissioned by the ICT Cluster in 2003. This research report involved discussions with a representative sample of ICT businesses, trade bodies and professional organisations. BSI has
Advantage West Midlands Form ADV-09 Issue 02INVITATION TO TENDERPage 21 of 35