Posted: Thu 9th Nov 2023
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Here, we talk to Kirsty Bell, head of client portfolios at Nile, a strategic design company based in Edinburgh. Kirsty tells us why Nile was looking to pursue opportunities in the public sector and how the company has benefited from the opportunity to work with Deloitte Digital.
Kirsty, can you start by telling us what Nile does?
Nile is a strategic design company. We help organisations to understand people and their behaviours so they can design purpose-driven products and services, with a focus on digital transformation.
We have 17 years of experience working with public-sector and private-sector organisations to deliver digital projects that improve experiences for customers and employees, make the organisations more effective and efficient, and help them extend their reach.
Users and their needs and behaviours are at the heart of all projects that our team undertakes. So that might be designing new services and products, making existing services better, or understanding how client organisations need to adapt to transform their services and make them more user-focused.
What made you pursue opportunities to work with the public sector?
Over our history, we've worked across local, national and central government and the NHS. There are a few reasons for this.
The first is impact. At Nile, we talk about solving problems that are worth solving. Public-sector projects tend to have a wide-ranging impact on citizens and look for solutions to issues in society.
Second, we're focused on digital transformation. Public-sector organisations have travelled a long road of digital reforms and modernisations to better serve citizens. As a result, there's still a lot of opportunity to partner with them to design and build citizen-centred digital solutions.
And geographically, we're in a great place to support the Scottish public sector, which we've done at both a national and local level.
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What issues were you having with this kind of procurement?
Public-sector procurement is a bit of a minefield for a small business like us. The PQQ (pre-qualification questionnaire) process feels like a lottery, and the time involved in the later stages has a real cost for us in terms of the complexity and length of the RFQ (request for quote) responses and the many different stages you must go through.
We don't have a dedicated public-sector business development function, and there's a bit of an art to getting the right keywords into scoring!
We're very much a relationship-based business. But we don't necessarily have the right relationships with public-sector organisations to truly get beneath the 'skin' of the problem and propose innovative solutions rather than just responding to the tender questions.
Sometimes we qualify out because we don't offer an end-to-end solution. Public-sector procurements are leaning towards rationalising lots of projects and project stages together. But because we're a specialist-focused organisation, we don't have the capability to deliver everything in the requirements.
And sometimes there are also requirements to be able to stand up a team in an incredibly short timescale (I've seen five days in the past!). We don't run a bench typically, and so this can be hard for us to meet as well.
How did you learn of this opportunity with Deloitte? And what made you think it was right for you?
We found out about it through our relationships with people at Deloitte Digital. They approached us to see if we'd like to partner with them. We felt it was a great opportunity to work on a fascinating project.
How exactly have you worked with Deloitte up to now?
We worked within a multidisciplinary team, and had responsibility for planning, leading, and managing the design research portion of the project.
How have your business's plans changed because of working with Deloitte?
Partnering is a key part of our strategy and is in fact one of our five key portfolios. Working with Deloitte means:
we're able to use our expertise and work in a team where our experience can really make a difference
we get access to work on national, strategic programmes that we'd otherwise not qualify for due to our size and specialism
we can work with teams of other experts and learn from each other
we can innovate through collaboration – this is really important to us, and working in big programme teams with lots of creative minds is a great way to do it
What advice would you give to other small businesses looking to work with Deloitte as you have?
Understand what you offer that's unique and focus on collaboration and communication.