Exploring the best routes to market

We held the third and last workshop of the year on Innovation in Procurement on Wednesday 9 December, once again led by colleagues from PUBLIC. In this workshop, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of different routes to market for boroughs’ housing services tenders.

Procuring collaboratively

So far, we’ve had great engagement with boroughs who are at different stages in their contract journeys. As I’ve mentioned previously, for collaborative procurement to work in practice, boroughs need to be aligned on many areas including contract end dates, specifications, outcomes for users, etc. 

The good news is that boroughs are willing to ensure as much alignment as possible. This is great, of course. However more than half of the boroughs involved in this process have renewal dates well into 2022 and 2023. This presents us with the challenge of not large enough ‘critical mass’ to make significant waves in the established supplier market, in the short term. Things are rarely perfectly aligned and we have at least two boroughs who have both the opportunity and willingness to work together on this. Crown Commercial Service colleagues have also thrown in additional support, for which we’re grateful. We still need to figure out the details of how all this will work in practice but that’s just logistics. 

The other essential – and dare I say, critical – element to all this is agreeing on a procurement route.  This is not about picking an off-the-shelf framework.

We need to re-think the approach altogether. The dream may be too big to realise at once but we need to at least start somewhere. Any chosen solution needs to be one that leaves the door open to more innovative outcomes for boroughs procuring similar systems in the future. 

The different procurement options

I suspect this is the exciting bit for procurement folk.

The exam question is: “What procurement approaches enable LOTI boroughs to get maximum value from the market and allow the flexibility to innovate?

The answer, as you’d expect, is not as straightforward. As much as boroughs desire systems that enable seamless digital experience, the strong foundations of legacy systems make it hard to undertake a wholesale move to a completely new set of suppliers. Couple that with significantly high costs for data migration and there are very few options left on the table to choose from.

The three options boroughs considered were:

  1. Use an existing framework
  2. Set up a framework and catalogue
  3. Set up a dynamic purchasing system

Boroughs, guided by the expertise from Crown Commercial Services (CCS) colleagues, and Ricky Morton and Johnny Hugill from PUBLIC, considered the pros and cons of each. It’s fair to say that each option has value under a specific set of circumstances. 

For example, if speed is what you’re after, using an existing framework will help you procure faster. If there’s a number of similar types of organisations seeking better value from contracts, then setting up a framework and catalogue might be a good option. And if similar organisations wish to be flexible, keep their options open (to a certain extent) and set specific qualifying criteria for suppliers, then a Dynamic Purchasing System could be the solution.

Clearly, there is a huge amount to think about, and some careful decisions to be made. We always knew that this work would not be easy, but the interest and enthusiasm of the LOTI community is clear.

We’ll be taking stock early in the new year, and exploring the best way to support LOTI boroughs and make real progress with this.

Watch this space!

For updates on this project please head here.

Genta Hajri
21 December 2020 ·
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