Tag Archives: public sector procurement

I’d Like To Purchase Some Expert Advice

Obtaining access to high quality consultancy services can often be the crucial factor in the success of a project. But buying advice is also one of the most confusing challenges for procurement. How can we overcome this?

Despite some consolidation in the financial consultancy sector, the overall market for consultancy services continues to grow, with the global consulting market valued at $250 billion.

While technology consultancy is leading the continued growth curve, other sectors including HR, operations and strategy are making strong contributions to overall value. For those seeking consultancy services, the market however can be complex. Is there a way to simplify the complexity of procuring consultancy services?

Why are consultancy services so confusing for buyers?

Much has to do with the breadth and depth on offer. Consultancy services are available in just about every industry possible and the sector continues to grow. The broad reach and sheer volume of suppliers can make it difficult to identify the best consultant for your needs. Take ‘Digital Transformation’ consultancy services as an example. It was barely recognised a sector just a few years ago, now it’s worth over $23billion and represented over 15% of the global consultancy market last year.

Consultancy services are provided by organisations large and small,- from multinational organisations and specialist niche providers to freelance independent consultants – often with much crossover in between. Many of the companies started life offering a single specialism but have grown and added additional services to their portfolios as their sector and market experience has developed.

Consultants often use a variety of language and definitions to describe who they are and what they deliver. With no single regulatory body on board to help define the market, its no wonder that buyers can find drawing comparisons a challenge.

As procurement budgets decrease globally, the lack of resourcing and specialisms often means that in-house buyers are generalists not specialists. As a result they may not have the insights into specific markets to be able to evaluate different consultancies meaningfully.

As a professional buying organisation, ESPO’s recent experience in building its largest ever public sector consultancy services framework highlights just how crowded and complex the marketplace is. It received a record number of tenders from suppliers – evaluating over 240 tenders before awarding 135 to the framework. As part of the process ESPO found that the marketplace is so complex that public sector buyers often remain with the same consultancy provider for years to avoid going through the procurement process again, putting budgets at risk.

Top things to consider when buying consultancy services

Utilising a team of 12 procurement experts with cross sector experience drawn from across the organisation and externally, ESPO was able to effectively evaluate the tenders before awarding the successful organisations a place on the framework. Here are its top considerations for buying consultancy services:

  1. Closely define your outcomes or objectives. By identifying the outcomes, procurement teams can work backwards from the end goal to define the exact service required.
  2. Request case studies. This will help you understand the process for delivery and ensure that the consultant has the right experience.
  3. Review technical capabilities. Whether you’re buying financial, waste disposal or even logistical advice, ensure that the consultants are specialists with the technical capabilities needed to deliver. This may mean that you are required to use a different provider for each project.
  4. Consider using a specialist framework for complex service procurement needs. Framework providers operate under strict due diligence rules and processes so you’re assured of the suppliers’ capabilities.   

Sheena Kocherhans is Category Manager for Professional Services at ESPO

The Big Squeeze in Public Procurement

As budgets continue to shrink, how can professionals working in public procurement do more with less?

We live in a world of apparent contradictions. The amount of money being spent by global governments is rising year on year. And yet, in the majority of these countries, public sector institutions are seeing budgets shrink at the same time.

Governments are increasing spending in order to continue to provide vital services to the public. In the UK, public spending reached £761.9 billion in 2016. This is forecast to rise again in 2017, with total UK public spending is expected to be £784.1 billion.

However, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when assessing these figures. The average age of the population is on the rise. Health services are dealing with a rise in chronic diseases as a result of lifestyle choices. Investment is not only being put into social care, but also into improving the lives of the entire population. All this means that any increase in spending is swallowed up as quickly as it is released.

In addition, slow global growth means that Governments have to be aware of future spending too. What this means, ultimately, is that spending at a local level is reduced. So what does this mean for public sector procurement?

More for Less

In Scotland, funding for Councils from the Scottish Government has decreased by an estimated £180 million for 2017-18. Some of this will be offset by rising Council Tax across the country, but many Councils and Local Authorities will still be looking to make major savings.

Maintaining, and improving, public services is only the start. The public sector in a situation where they not only have to achieve more with less, but they also have to invest wisely to help future savings targets.

Technology is just one area where this can be achieved. Many cities are investing heavily in technology that will align with existing infrastructure. Following in the footsteps of pioneering cities like Barcelona and Stockholm, a number of UK cities are moving to become ‘Smart Cities’.

Intelligent Street Lighting, sensors measuring urban data including city centre footfall, air quality, and new applications for refuse collection and public parking, are just a few examples of how technology helps to build a smart city.

These technologies have a dual-benefit for Local Authorities, and other businesses in cities. Data collected can be used to drive savings initiatives, while at the same time helping to improve the quality of life for residents.

Public Procurement’s Three Cs

What does this mean for procurement? The profession will be at the forefront when it comes to savings initiatives, and will play a vital, and ever-increasing, role in these projects. But at the same time, procurement still needs to prove its worth to, and make these savings stick.

If you’re looking for somewhere to get started, or to drive continuous improvement, here are three Cs that are applicable no matter your organisation, industry, or category (or even sector).

  1. Challenge

The best saving procurement can make is by not spending money in the first place. And the best time to do this is at the very beginning of a project. By challenging requests, procurement can begin to weed out wants from needs.

Does the organisation actually need this? Does it really need the 24-carat, diamond encrusted version, when an off-the-shelf one will do just fine? Is there an alternative solution to the question that could cost less while doing the same job?

Get your client, end customer, and specification writers to really think through their requirements. Once you’ve done that, you can move on to the next C.

  1. Collaborate

Collaboration should be both an internal and external activity. Procurement should be involved from the start of the project, and work closely with other departments to get the best for the organisation.

The public sector can also collaborate more too. Instead of all setting up individual projects for the same thing, why not share what’s been done in the past? Frameworks, Dynamic Purchasing Systems, and collaborative purchasing can help save time, resources, and money.

It’s also time to be working more collaboratively with our suppliers. Procurement needs to focus, where appropriate, on building long-term relationships. By building these relationships, suppliers will feel more open to collaboration, and potentially start bringing innovative solutions to the table.

And the other thing collaboration is going to help is with the final C.

  1. Cost

As in total cost, lifecycle cost, or Total Cost of Ownership. It’s critical to long-term savings ambitions that the total cost of goods or services is understood. Depreciation, residual value, maintenance and disposal costs all need to be taken into account before any decisions are made.

Procurement should also be focusing more on the cost element with suppliers too. Profit margin is not necessarily the best place to start looking for savings. Rather than creating the perception of going after profit, switching the focus to cost can provide more opportunities for discussion and even innovation.

Getting Started

While these are very good areas to start in, they are just the start of a larger exercise. However, they will help to provide the foundation for best practice, and to change the way projects are put in place across the organisation.

Defining & Defeating Maverick Spend

Is maverick spend an issue for the UK public sector? Is local government adhering to procurement practices when spending taxpayers’ money?

maverick spend

It’s not uncommon for businesses to suffer from high levels of uncontrolled procurement, often known as maverick spend. These levels can often reach 80 per cent of total spend, a figure likely to send shivers down the spine of any procurement professional.

To elevate its role within an organisation, procurement must extend its reach. A CEO is unlikely to take a function seriously that only influences 60 per cent of the activity for which it’s responsible.

Yet that is the situation of the average procurement team. No other function would allow this: Legal, HR, Finance, Compliance, Public Affairs – all insist their writ runs broad.

Maverick spend is a major obstacle to extending procurement’s influence. However, decades of setting policies and rolling out enterprise systems have had limited impact in reducing it.

Maverick Spend in the Public Sector

While it’s often easy to see the figures in an individual organisation, actively tackling this spend is another matter. Solutions range from improving reporting to enabling other functions to see the benefits proper procurement processes bring.

Today, Applegate PRO has released a whitepaper on maverick spend via Procurious. The paper will showcase data on procurement practices gained via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to all local councils in the UK.

This is one of the largest FOI requests relating to procurement processes that has ever been conducted in the UK.

We hope that this research will provide a valuable snapshot of how local councils weigh up in the use of their allocated budgets on a national scale.

Applegate PRO are exploring further areas of research to analyse the maverick spend in public sector bodies, including the Ministry of Defence and NHS.

What the Whitepaper Offers

This white paper uses a case study of local government procurement to explore the varying levels of maverick spend across a set of comparable organisations. It reveals startling differences in levels of uncontrolled expenditure and explores the ramifications for this.

Findings from the 276 councils that responded from across the UK include:

  • Definition of maverick spend.
  • The top three councils that reduced levels of maverick spend between the financial years of 2012 and 2016.
  • The councils whose maverick spend increased the most between the financial years of 2012 and 2016.
  • Local council with the most maverick spend.
  • Local council with the least maverick spend.
  • The percentage of maverick spend undertaken in their council from each financial year from 2012 to the present day.
  • The sanction systems in place for non-compliance to procurement practices.
  • The percentages of transactions that require a purchase order.
  • The number of procurement professionals that have a CIPS or other professional procurement qualification and how many are currently undergoing procurement training.

If you are interested in reading the full report, you can sign up to receive your copy here.

Applegate PRO is a free-to-use eProcurement system that streamlines request for quotation and purchase order processes, enabling buyers to submit a request, receive up to ten competitive quotes and raise a PO in a matter of hours.

Submit your request for quotation today with no obligation to buy at http://www.applegatepro.com/

How to Introduce a Sustainable Procurement Strategy

Although the theory is well regarded, the practical aspects of introducing a sustainable procurement strategy are often overlooked.

Sustainable Procurement Strategy

This article is by Gerard Chick, Chief Knowledge Officer, Optimum Procurement Group.

About 10 years ago the UK government started taking the pursuit of sustainable procurement seriously. They established a task force of industry experts to try to define ‘sustainable procurement’, and develop appropriate standards for general deployment.

The Government’s goal was position the UK at the forefront of sustainable procurement in Europe by 2009. Their framework and recommendations have been instrumental in guiding sustainable procurement strategy, theory and practice across the globe.

What is Sustainable Procurement?

So what is this thing we call sustainable procurement? Sir Neville Simms, chair of the UK Procurement Task Force, described it as the use of procurement “…to support wider social, economic and environmental objectives, in ways that offer real long-term benefits” to organisations and the communities in which they exist.

These long-term benefits include:

  • The achievement of significant savings by focusing on a “whole life costing” methodology for procurement.
  • The incorporation of the “three Rs” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), to cut waste and improve the efficiency of resources.
  • The enhancement of businesses public image, by demonstrating a sustainable approach to business, and championing related environmental and social benefits.
  • The development of new markets for innovative products and services through technological advancements.
  • The improvement of management information, a focus on business and supply chain risk, and better supplier relationships.
  • Competitive advantage as a consequence of the early adoption of practices, focusing on increasingly environmentally-focussed legislation.

Developing Sustainable Procurement Practice

The UK Task Force devised a National Action Plan to inform interested organisations to adopt a sustainable procurement strategy. In 2006, Procuring the Future was published to support public and sector organisations in taking their first steps in this burgeoning area of interest.

To help you, here are the central planks of the report established as recommendations for those who wanted to develop sound, achievable, sustainable procurement practice:

  • Be a beacon: Provide clear direction for both procurement and your supply base providing consistent leadership and policy-making on sustainable procurement issues.
  • Set the standard: Fully implement existing procurement policy and standards. and ensure these are extended across all procurement activity. This will improve performance and underline expectations, including the establishment of well understood minimum standards for your suppliers.
  • Prioritise: Rationalise existing procurement standards into a single integrated procurement framework, which covers both policy relevance and appropriateness.
  • Test: Filter and select new procurement policies to ensure they are enforceable, before considering implementation.
  • Develop capability: Ensure you and your team have the requisite professional skills to support the efficient deployment of sustainable procurement.
  • Tool up: Provide the appropriate tools, training and information resources to execute these standards.
  • Be ready: Ensure you already have the appropriate budgetary mechanisms in place, and that your spending and budgeting policies facilitate your sustainable procurement strategy.
  • Be proactive: Encourage openness to innovation and look proactively for opportunities to drive social benefits through your engagement with suppliers and the wider marketplace.

There is no doubt that the UK’s lead is now being adopted elsewhere, and that the global procurement community seeks to embrace a sustainable approach with an eye on good practice coupled with other significant business rewards.

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.