All posts by Leanne Edwards

The Evidence Behind Using DPS in Procurement

Increasing use of Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) could mean the end of frameworks in public procurement. But is there empirical evidence supporting the benefits of these systems?

Evidence for DPS

In the first part of this series, we discussed the benefits and drawbacks of Dynamic Purchasing Systems for public procurement. Some of the benefits discussed were:

  • Increased Competition and Competitive Pricing
  • Spreading and Minimising Risk
  • Bridging the Talent Gap

But what is the evidence for these benefits? And will this help to lead to an increased use of Dynamic Purchasing Systems in public procurement?

Research Findings

Research published by PwC in 2011 provides some empirical evidence regarding the use of Dynamic Purchasing Systems in the EU. At this time only 1.1 per cent of procedures were DPS, with the greatest use being in Greece and the Czech Republic. Where there was joint purchasing, DPS was used less and this could be one reason why take up in the UK has been low as there has been a focus on collaborative purchasing arrangements across the public sector.

Looking at the recent contract notices (including PIN’s) on Sell 2 Wales, Contracts Finder and Public Contracts Scotland, there is evidence that Dynamic Purchasing Systems are currently being used across the public sector to source a wide range of goods, services and works. From this crude research by far the most popular category to apply a DPS to is transport with the majority of these contracts being for home to school transport.

Transport accounted for 34 per cent of the DPS contracts that were found on the above mentioned sites. Other categories where there were several DPS contracts in place included Care (12 per cent) and works/maintenance (12 per cent).

From the research it was clear that DPS is more widely used in England than in Wales and Scotland. Only 4 of the 65 contracts found were in Scotland and Wales. Possibly devolution and the application of national purchasing policies which often promote collaborative purchasing has affected this.

There was evidence of the DPS being used across the various types of public sector organisations including central government departments, local authorities, housing associations and colleges. It was the local authorities that accounted for the majority of the DPS’s that were in place, this could possibly be due to their responsibility to provide the home to school transport that made up over a third of these contracts.

From the research conducted there were no examples found within the NHS, this could possibly be due to the low number of suppliers available for some specialised products.

Industry Case Studies

Two case studies give us a more in-depth look at the use of DPS. Local Authority 1 (LA1) had set up one DPS contract for home to school transport for children. Local Authority 2 (LA2) had set up three DPS contracts, the results here focused on the health services DPS. Both Authorities stated that greater access to new suppliers and allowing suppliers to enter the system at any time were the main reasons they had used the DPS.

This was particularly important to LA2, as the contract was for the purchase of a new category area, for which new suppliers regularly entered the market. For LA1 increased competition in the market was the driving force and an increased number of suppliers would help to achieve this.

Disadvantages stated by LA1 included the need for extensive training for buyers and the market place as well as the need to resolve IT issues quickly. On a similar note LA2 stated that the resource intensive nature of dynamic purchasing systems was a downside.

Both stated that they would consider using DPS again in the future; indeed LA2 already had more than one live DPS. LA1 noted that DPS is now considered as part of their category management approach and that the changes to the procurement regulations had assisted in this. LA2 considered dynamic purchasing systems to be a valuable procurement option.

It is difficult to tell if there has been an increase in the use of DPS since the regulations changed. All of the contracts that were found during the research process were procured after 2011 when the PWC research was published and this research only covers the UK. An analysis of the number of new DPS contracts advertised in the ten weeks before the regulation changes was compared with the number in the ten weeks after the changes.

In the ten weeks before there were eight new contracts advertised but in the ten weeks after there were thirteen. This does suggest that there could be an increase in the use of the DPS however it is very early days. What it does show however is an appetite amongst public sector professionals to use this type of procurement vehicle.

In Conclusion

The practise of adding or removing suppliers to a framework is not a stranger to our private sector colleagues. However, frameworks are entrenched in the culture of public sector purchasing and, more recently, the collaborative procurement vehicles that have sprung up. In terms of the affect of the new regulations, it is still very early days and so it is difficult to tell whether the changes will drive an increase in the use of DPS.

The benefits of using a dynamic purchasing system appear to far out weigh the disadvantages, if applied to a suitable category of spend. These tangible benefits could very well pave the way for Dynamic Purchasing Systems to begin to form a more prominent role in public sector purchasing strategy.

Dynamic Purchasing Systems and the Death of Frameworks

Will the use of Dynamic Purchasing Systems grow as a result of amendments to EU Procurement Directives? And will they provide a solution to problems of both buyers and suppliers?

Dynamic Purchasing Systems

As procurement professionals we are familiar with the use of frameworks as a contracting mechanism. The 2015 amendments to the EU Procurement Directives have sown the seeds of change, but will this result in a growth in the use of Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) and a decline in framework agreements? Could DPS be the panacea to the problems of both buyers and suppliers?

Dynamic Purchasing Systems are a relatively marginalised process and have been under used due to their complexity. The up-dated EU Regulations have seen four changes around the use of the DPS, which has simplified the process.

Benefits

Use of a Dynamic Purchasing System seems to offer several benefits and, as we operate in an ever-changing environment, it seems perfectly sensible to adopt increasingly dynamic procurement methods. Many of these benefits could lead to savings and supplier growth, which are high priorities on the government’s agenda.

  • Gives Suppliers Another Chance

DPS gives suppliers another bite of the public sector cherry if at first they are unsuccessful. Many contractors are not poor suppliers, they are poor tenderers. The use of frameworks unnecessarily locks these suppliers out of the market for up to four years. DPS offers a solution where if they don’t succeed at first they can try, try, try again.

  • Increased Competition & Competitive Pricing

As the mix and number of suppliers on the Dynamic Purchasing Systems evolves, it is likely that this will lead to an increase in competition. A report by PWC in 2011 noted that ‘Dynamic Purchasing Systems are the most successful type of procedure in terms of attracting a large number of bidders’.

Direct award also isn’t permitted, so the decision on best value can only be decided at tender stage. This is likely to result in more competitive pricing from suppliers.

  • Development of Long-Term Relationships

A dynamic purchasing system can now run for more than four years. A review of ‘live’ Dynamic Purchasing Systems found examples with a proposed duration of a decade! As austerity measures remain in place, and procurement professionals are constantly required to do more with less, DPS could be a solution to expensive re-procurement exercises.

It has been said that the EU regulations can make developing long-term, value generating supplier relationships difficult due to strict time limits on contracts, and the mandatory competition required over the threshold values. However, if suppliers are no longer looking over their shoulder at a looming re-procurement, DPS could support the development of these relationships with key suppliers.

  • Fully Electronic

As DPS is conducted solely through electronic means, the various advantages of e-procurement are present here. However, it is imperative that the infrastructure is there to support the process. The maturity of systems and the change in the EU regulations may serve to create an environment where DPS can flourish.

Current systems can also be adapted to run a DPS so there should be no significant change management or training required unless new systems are adopted.

  • Bridge Talent Gap

Currently public sector purchasing is experiencing a talent gap. Greater use of DPS could go some way towards alleviating this, as it could potentially reduce the number of full EU processes an organisation is required to undertake. Further efficiencies could be made if dynamic purchasing systems were used as part of collaborative or consortium purchasing.

  • Spreading & Minimising Risk

The public sector has been branded as a risk averse creature. Therefore, one may imagine that the use of a variant on a procurement procedure may strike fear into the hearts of procurement professionals. Public sector professionals are becoming far more innovative, but the risk averse nature of the public sector could be a reason why, despite the simplification and flexibilities added, the DPS may remain under utilised.

Risk of challenge to a procurement is never far from the minds of  procurement officers. One wonders that if suppliers knew that they would be able to re-apply to join the DPS, whether this would reduce the number of unsubstantiated challenges that contracting authorities have to fend off.

Finally, a DPS is likely to have more suppliers awarded into the system than a framework agreement. This would serve to spread the risk for authorities.

Drawbacks

Conversely, there are a number of reasons why the changes in regulations may not result in an increase in the use of DPS.

  • Administration of Suppliers

Although there are efficiency savings found in not having to re-procure every four years, these could be eroded by the fact that buyers may have a regular stream of suppliers requesting to be accepted onto the DPS. This is likely to be exacerbated in certain markets and by the fact that documents have to be evaluated within ten working days.

The authority also has no possibility of restricting the maximum number of operators. Constant applications by serial tenderers could be mitigated by providing detailed feedback on the reasons why they were unsuccessful.

  • Risk of Obsolescence

If a DPS has been running for too long it may become obsolete. Over the course of several years the requirements of an authority may change significantly. However this could be overcome by good contract and category management as well as an annual review.

  • Up-Front Costs

There are likely to be additional costs the first time that an authority uses this process in the form of e-systems development, training and preparing the market. Procurement policies and internal processes will also need to be up-dated. However, removing the four year limit should go some way towards alleviating these costs, as they will be spread over a longer contract term. Up-take may also depend on how DPS is viewed by internal customers.

Have you worked with a Dynamic Purchasing System in public sector procurement? What were your thoughts? If you’re looking for evidence of benefits in DPS use, make sure you keep a look out for the second article in this series.