Do you remember the Sinclair ZX81 computer? The brainchild of Sir Clive Sinclair, it was one of the first home computers when it launched in 1981. It was easy to use and affordable, with technology ahead of its time.
It won the hearts and minds of people looking for a computer that was simple to use and not too expensive.
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At the Crown Commercial Service, we have taken on this ZX81 philosophy as we aim to do for public sector procurement what Sir Clive did for home computers.
Let me introduce the Crown Marketplace programme – through which we aim to transform the way the wider public sector and central government buys common goods and services.
We are building an online service, which connects buyers to suppliers offering the most competitive deals on a wide range of products and services. We are here to help ensure that public sector buyers have easy access to the very best deals.
You can search in much the same way as you do at home on Amazon clicking your mouse to select the products and services you want to buy, adding these to your basket before purchasing in a matter of minutes.
It will allow users to bypass the lengthy forms and processes normally associated with completing a procurement, while ‘smart basket’ functionality will alert buyers to the best total price option, taking into account delivery costs.
Sounds good, I hear you say, but you’ll take another five years developing this and going through a long procurement process ...won’t you?
No, the platform is already live and we are testing it on two categories of products and services – technology products and office supplies.
Our customers are extremely enthusiastic about the experience.
It will take some time for us to move all our goods and services over to the marketplace, but we are up and running and excited to expand as quickly as possible.
Indeed, 18 days after launching the technology products catalogue, we had already exceeded the 18 month volume of throughput under the previous catalogue.
Another question we're often asked is will it save money?
It is early days but the signs are encouraging. Prices can be between 6% and 27% cheaper than Amazon because approved suppliers are competing against each other every day for your business.
And why wouldn't suppliers want access to a £70bn customer market?
For example, one customer last month bought 250 Lenovo laptops at a price 13% cheaper than Amazon – saving them £43,000 on just one order.
And it’s not just enormous government departments with multi-million pound budgets that can use the service.
Early signs are also encouraging for small businesses as they are often quicker to adapt to market movements.
All this will contribute to the government’s goal of ensuring £1 in every £3 it spends will be with SMEs by 2020.
And why did the ZX81 succeed where others didn’t? Sir Clive Sinclair labelled it ‘lean and efficient’ for consumers. I truly believe the Crown Marketplace will do the same for public sector procurement.