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Tackling the challenges in public sector procurement

A ‘how to’ guide to quick, easy, compliant procurement of 21st-century-ready goods, works and services
By Steve Rowland on 14 September 2021

It is perhaps no surprise that, in a recent global survey of more than 6,500 procurement professionals conducted for the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and changing EU procurement regulations as a result of Brexit came out top of the list of challenges the public sector expects to face in the next 12 months.

Alongside this were the ongoing challenges of budget restraints, managing risk in the supply chain, attracting staff with the right skills, and ensuring engagement with procurement at the outset of a project.

At eXceeding, we’re always looking for ways to create win-win solutions to problems our clients face, and understand the specific challenges faced by public sector procurement professionals, having spent many years working with local authorities, NHS Trusts and housing associations in particular.

Never ones to do things by halves, we’re confident our latest partnership will equip public sector procurement professionals with everything they need to tackle all these challenges head on, now and in the future.

Tell us more! What is this partnership about, and what are the benefits?

We’ve joined up with professional services procurement experts, Constellia to support the delivery of their Neutral Vendor Solution through the AEC Neutral Vendor Framework and to draw on eXceeding’s wealth of knowledge and expertise in goods, works and ICT managed services.

The result is that those with responsibility for procurement within the full spectrum of public sector organisations can now benefit from one single framework from which they can source everything they need to meet their long and short-term challenges, whatever else the future may hold.

How is a neutral vendor framework different from other public sector frameworks?

Similar to fixed public sector procurement frameworks, only rigorously pre-approved, pre-qualified suppliers can be onboarded onto a neutral vendor framework. However, where a neutral vendor framework differs is that new suppliers can join at any time during the six-year term – provided they pass the pre-qualification and approval process – rather than having to wait until the framework comes to an end and a new one is established with a capped number of suppliers.

As with a fixed public sector procurement framework, awards to suppliers on a neutral vendor framework can be made directly, via further mini-competition, or through full sourcing events. With a neutral vendor framework, however, the timescales for making these awards are significantly quicker.

What makes the eXceeding-Constellia partnership so good?

Our Neutral Vendor model enables public and third-sector organisations to access the best possible deals, working to short timescales, in a fully compliant manner. Our partnership with Constellia offers access to the only nationally-available framework to cover the entirety of professional services, works, goods, and ICT managed services and in fact all CPV codes – providing one place from which public sector buyers can procure everything they need to serve their stakeholders.

Buyers will get support from proven procurement specialists, with eXceeding sharing their wealth of knowledge in the area of goods and works, and Constellia supporting the sourcing of professional services.

Whatever category they need to procure, public sector buyers can be confident they will get the best delivery support and advice.

Other benefits of our Neutral Vendor model include:

  • Zero cost to the public purse – our framework is entirely supplier-funded, allowing the public sector to benefit from our joint expertise free of charge
  • Flexible service levels – three different service levels of project-specific support allow organisations to access as much or as little resource as they need to complement existing capabilities
  • Fully compliant route to market – procure with no standstill, allowing for ‘best and final offers’ and negotiations, without the requirement to advertise on platforms like Contracts Finder or Find a Tender
  • Improved engagement with suppliers – engage in pre-award discussions with suppliers and access their recommendations for improving specifications or contracts
  • Get procurement right from the start – as procurement experts, we ensure clients’ requirements are realistic and clearly articulated from the outset, allowing for improved SLAs, KPIs and value for money.

Let’s take a look at those public sector challenges again…

Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

We’ve talked before about how recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will require an element of starting over. Organisations will want to ensure they are procuring for resilience, building supply chains that guard against future disruption and uncertainty – whatever form that may take.

There will be a need to do things differently and better, to innovate and evolve. Public sector buyers should look to work together with their suppliers to establish an open and honest dialogue and a partnership based on mutual success.

By creating a community of like-minded public sector and third sector buyers, procuring through a Neutral Vendor MSP opens up increased possibilities for economies of scale, knowledge transfer, partnerships and innovation that is specific to the public sector, allowing for further progress to be made towards public sector political objectives like supplier diversity, local SMEs, sustainability and net zero targets.

Changing EU procurement regulations

As the UK begins the complex process of disentangling its legislation from that of the EU and re-writing the rules on public procurement in a post-Brexit era, it is incumbent on public sector organisations to ensure they are up-to-date with the latest regulations and adhering to them in all their processes.

By procuring through eXceeding, public sector organisations can have peace of mind, knowing they have an experienced intermediary to take care of all that for them should they choose. From platform and marketplace onboarding to contract award, we ensure every process and contract is fully compliant with all relevant legislation, allowing our clients to concentrate on choosing the best deal/supplier and benefitting from it in their day-to-day work.

Budget restraints

It goes without saying that budgets are tight. Now, more than ever, public sector organisations need to ensure they’re getting best value for money across the board.

The Neutral Vendor MSP available via AEC Neutral Vendor Framework allows public sector organisations to benefit from eXceeding’s best-practice procurement expertise and additional capacity at no cost to the public purse. It is entirely funded by suppliers, who pay a small percentage of their invoices in return for the opportunity to be part of the framework. They, in turn, benefit from better-defined specifications and increased win rates, at less cost than on other frameworks. They, in turn, benefit from better-defined specifications and increased win rates, at less cost than on other frameworks.

Procuring many different category requirements through a single channel, potentially with a single supplier, ensures a more efficient and cost-effective procurement process all round.

The way in which Constellia’s Neutral Vendor model is set up and managed means that public sector buyers will only receive high quality bids from suppliers that they can be sure not only can do the job, but actively want to work with public sector clients, again increasing the value of the partnerships entered into under the framework. The fact that new suppliers can join the marketplace at any point ensures greater choice, flexibility and opportunities for innovation, ensuring contracts awarded are the best they can be for the money.

What’s more, public sector buyers can benefit from eXceeding’s expertise in contract management and supplier relationship management within the goods, works and ICT managed service categories to ensure value for money that extends beyond the initial agreement and lasts throughout the duration of the contract. We aren’t just here to do deals – we believe in creating genuine win-win partnerships for public sector buyers and their suppliers, and offer mediation and support with scope, change control and payments as required.

Managing risk in the supply chain

Managing risk in the supply chain has always been important, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it even more to the fore.

The only real way to mitigate against the unknown is to build strong, open and honest relationships with suppliers, and to be agile, reacting quickly yet pragmatically to whatever future challenges and crises may arise.

Our partnership with Constellia is designed to create genuinely strong buyer-supplier partnerships built on shared goals, open, honest dialogue, and total transparency. All suppliers in the Marketplace are pre-qualified and pre-approved, genuinely want to work with public sector organisations, and have goals that align with those of the public sector. Meanwhile, the purpose-built source-to-pay platform allows for ease of bidding for suppliers, and increased transparency, sharing of data and control of the procurement process for buyers and suppliers alike.

Our Neutral Vendor model also enables public sector organisations to be more agile, by allowing them to procure high quality goods, works and services quicker than they would under other frameworks or open tenders. There are no specified standstill periods, and public sector buyers have access to the suppliers they need straightaway. The process turnaround time for direct award may be as short as one or two working days, mini competition five to eight working days, and full sourcing weeks quicker than PCR 2015 / the Find a Tender Service.

Attracting staff with the right skills

Hiring the people that fit your culture, have the right skills and have a real passion and drive to work in the public sector can be a challenge.

The CIPS global survey results show that a lack of sector-specific skills and experience, a lack of technical skills or evidence of formal procurement training, and candidate salary expectations, are among the biggest challenges public sector procurement professionals face in finding and hiring new people. Meanwhile, the skills most in demand in new hires are communication, internal stakeholder management, tendering, and supplier relationship management.

By using the Constellia’s Neutral Vendor Solution as the conduit to source professional services, and eXceeding for goods, works and ICT managed services, public sector organisations can benefit from these skills and more, at zero cost, with no need to hire permanent staff to their in-house teams. The combined experience of our procurement professionals allows public sector organisations to access a wide range of category-specific expertise and best practice support.

Ensuring engagement with procurement at the outset of a project

We all know that success breeds success, but how do you get to that success when the internal relationships you need to succeed just aren’t there? Getting internal stakeholders to engage with the procurement process from the outset, realising the role they have to play in shaping requirements and ultimately ensuring the optimum outcome at the end of process, can be a struggle, particularly where organisations may have struggled in the past to procure goods, works and services that represent good quality and value for money.

At eXceeding, our procurement experts are well-versed in internal stakeholder management, and have an established track record of helping clients gain and nurture the support and assistance of their various internal teams, improving engagement with the procurement process from the very beginning of a project.

Ultimately, we believe actions speak louder than words, so we work hard to ensure each and every procurement for our clients is the best it possibly can be, following smooth, transparent processes, putting in place a contract that represents best value for money, and ensuring that deal continues to evolve and meet expectations during the entirety of its term. These successes help to strengthen internal stakeholders’ regard for procurement, as they experience first-hand the value – done well – that it creates for their organisation.

With access to this expertise and experience through eXceeding and the Constellia Neutral Vendor Solution, public sector organisations can be confident of maximum internal engagement and return on investment from their procurement activities.

We work with your key stakeholders to ensure your requirements are realistic and clearly articulated from the outset. Not only does this help ensure a successful procurement, it also results in improved SLAs, KPIs and value for money, leading to much less likelihood of problems down the track. We provide honest and unbiased feedback to buyers and suppliers alike, and encourage pre-award discussions – including the opportunity to access supplier recommendations for improvements to specifications or contracts. All of this is aimed at facilitating strong buyer-supplier relationships and ensuring optimum outcomes every time.

To find out more about how working with eXceeding could make the difference for your business, you can contact us here or book a free appointment using the form below.

Steve Rowland

Before eXceeding, Steve spent 16 years working on the supplier-side of outsourcing. During Steve’s 24 years’ experience, he has worked on global and UK outsourcing deals, ensuring the creation of win-win partnerships.

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