Innovation in Procurement – Housing Services Tender
Last week we held the second in a series of three Housing Services workshops, led by Cameron Scott from PUBLIC. Having previously appraised potential Housing Services systems, the purpose of this workshop was to see if boroughs were able to align on objectives, outcomes, user needs, etc.
In previous procurement discussions, there’s been consensus on what boroughs value most from suppliers. These align well with the objectives of collaborative procurement:
- Having more pricing transparency and clear pricing models
- Getting better value for money (not lower costs necessarily)
- Getting free access to boroughs’ own data and system interoperability
- Having embedded digital ways of working as standard
Being joined up on what they want is crucial if boroughs are to approach the market as a collective. Equally important perhaps, is also being aligned on tender specifications.
What should tender specs have in common and where are differences acceptable?
We know from previous engagement with boroughs and SMEs that local government technology tender specifications are often long and complex. This is because boroughs typically procure based on the functionality of existing systems and processes rather than the outcomes they want for users (staff and residents). The end result is often the same – procurement of the same large, often incumbent, supplier. This is a vicious cycle that boroughs are keen to break out of.
What’s more important, however, is what boroughs have had to do to fill the gaps. Many have built on existing technology to enhance its functionality and respond to the needs of their service users. This bespoke approach creates complexity if boroughs wish to approach the market collectively. After all, how can they have common tenders if they each need to detail how the system must support all the tools they’ve added on top?
One view is that expecting alignment on all aspects of specifications is unrealistic and even unnecessary. One option is to accept that some differences are unavoidable and instead focus on what boroughs can align on: the outcomes they want. This is where LOTI sees the opportunity. Our aim is to align on and clearly articulate to the market the desired outcomes for users of Housing Services systems. In the workshop, boroughs agreed on the main users of the system based on the services they deliver, homelessness support, leasehold and tenancy management, etc.
There was also broad agreement on how boroughs might approach exploring common user needs and outcomes. It was clear that boroughs have undertaken significant work in those areas, meaning that priority will be on aligning on and prioritising areas of highest value and importance.
In the next workshop, we’re hoping to explore boroughs’ appetite for a procurement approach. More specifically, we’ll be discussing whether a modular or other approach is more feasible and desirable.