By Daniel Hunter
British business is blighted by a jobs for the boys culture, with the majority of contracts awarded to service providers with existing relationships rather than the best ideas, according to findings unveiled by blur Group.
The independent research, which surveyed 300 decision makers within UK businesses and 141 UK service providers, found that whilst 89% of decision makers believe there are better service providers available than their existing network, the vast majority (89%) were still likely to approach their existing service providers when a new project arose.
In contrast, 93% of decision makers admitted they would like to find a service provider offering a more innovative and fresh approach to those they currently work with, however 83% revealed that procurement processes often prevent them from doing so. Three quarters (75%) also admitted that ‘peer group pressure’ inside their organisations prevented them from seeking work with service providers outside their existing networks, stifling fair competition.
As a consequence of constantly working with the same network, two-thirds (66%) of decision makers felt that service providers often got jaded before projects were finished, leading to unsatisfactory results.
The ‘loaded dice’ approach to awarding contracts by decision makers was echoed by the service providers themselves. Eight out of ten (81%) found that most pitches are won by companies with existing relationships rather than the best ideas, whilst 93% admitted they had participated in new business pitches where they stood ‘no chance of winning’ as the client had a clear favourite from the outset of the process. 86% believed they had been added to pitch lists simply to make up the numbers.
In an attempt to overcome the odds stacked against them, service providers admitted to a range of underhand tactics to help seal the deal and win contracts. This included everything from hiring the client’s daughter; bringing in actors & equipment to make the business seem larger than it was; stalking a prospect and ‘accidentally’ bumping into them at an event; and even helping the prospect write the Request for Proposal to ensure that it matched the services they could deliver. Sending gifts, despite the recent introduction of the UK Bribery Act, was also a popular tactic, with service providers sending anything from iPhones to home-baked goods to the key decision makers in an attempt to influence the final outcome.
“With service providers spending more than £967 million per year pitching for new contracts, it’s critical that there’s a level playing field for all organisations involved in the process," Philip Letts, blur Group CEO commented.
"Yet our research suggests that much of this expenditure is wasted, with many businesses displaying a ‘jobs for the boys’ mentality and continuously awarding contracts to businesses from their existing networks.
“We are therefore calling on businesses to shake off the shackles of tradition, the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ attitudes and the tyranny of outdated work practices which have more in common with Victorian Britain than the digital age.
"By embracing technology and new approaches to the tendering process, organisations can not only secure more favourable terms of business, but they can also gain access to a wider pool of talent, ensuring they get the very best service provider for the task at hand.”
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