Government tech purchase cycle hits 22 months

Delays related to changes in scope add seven months to the process.

Governments around the world are taking almost two years to finalise technology procurement as "significant" delays hold up the process, Gartner has found.

According to the analyst firm, public sector technology purchasing processes are taking 22 months on average, with delays making up roughly a third of the timeframe in some instances.

The survey, which polled 1,120 executives from around the world during November and December, including 79 from the public sector, saw nearly half of respondents state they experienced six or more moderate or significant delays in their buying processes. Delays related to changes in scope added an average of seven months to the process.

“Technology acquisition brings challenges to the public sector that do not commonly exist in other industries,” said Dean Lacheca, vice president of Gartner.

“Each jurisdiction has its own procurement laws and policies, and within that, each agency or department can have its own interpretation of them. A failure to conform to the rules can have serious consequences, from unwanted publicity to personal risk of prosecution.”

The survey also found significant delays were taking place before procurement began, with factors including scope changes requiring additional research and evaluation at 76 per cent of respondents, reaching agreements around budgeting at 75 per cent and developing business cases at 74 per cent.

“While government buying cycles can be long, it is important to note that these time frames are not set,” said Lacheca. “Initial planned timelines can be delayed as a result of a combination of both controllable and uncontrollable factors, especially when no external deadlines exist.”

However, issues are being felt at the other end of the process, with 68 per cent of public sector respondents claiming that moderate to significant delays took place due to difficulty obtaining specific product or implementation requirements details from the provider.

Additionally, the research firm claimed public sector organisations are more likely to highly rate references from existing clients when compared to non-public sector buyers due in part to the fact that these organisations are rarely in direct competition with each other and share common challenges.

“Chosen providers are much more likely to provide fact-based, actionable content to the buying team,” the firm added. “Gartner recommends technology providers maintain an easily accessible list of public sector reference clients and build a diverse library of product collateral with a strong focus on value assessment, which can be leveraged across all stages of the buying cycle.”