Innovation in Procurement Toolkit
The following article is by Johnny Hugill of PUBLIC.
Shaping the future of London technology procurement
Over the past few months, we have been working with the team at LOTI, in a project led by Waltham Forest Director of Digital & ICT, Paul Neville, to help to make technology and procurement in London boroughs more collaborative, innovative, and effective.
Today we’re sharing the first prototype of the toolkit, which we will develop and adapt to meet the needs of the local government community.
Procurement is often cited as a barrier to successful digital transformation, by both boroughs and suppliers: but fixing it can be an enormous organisational, commercial, and technical challenge.
We spoke with nearly 40 technology, procurement, strategy, and finance leads in London boroughs to understand their challenges more deeply, and to identify areas for change. In addition to this, we have been engaging with ‘strategic’ technology suppliers, as well as smaller startups and SMEs to understand how London can become a better customer. A full description of our project methodology and approach can be found here.
What we found
In total, we prioritised 25 key ‘problem statements’ identified during interviews and workshops with London officials, or through consultation with suppliers. The full list of prioritised problem statements can also be found here. In general, we found that there is a strong appetite for London boroughs to work together more effectively on procurement: even just to share good practice, insights, and perspectives on different suppliers. However, there are a number of major, and to-date intractable challenges, preventing boroughs from working with each other as regularly and deeply as they could be. Some of the highlights of our challenge scoping include:
- Market consolidation and monopolies can make it difficult for boroughs to negotiate.
Many boroughs reported that, for some key services, including housing and adult social care, there are so few suppliers capable of delivering all of the service requirements: this can put boroughs at a disadvantageous position when negotiating with suppliers, or holding them to account.
- Boroughs do not work together enough on procurement
While there are some examples of collaboration and joint procurement, there are still not enough systematic processes, workflows, or forums for boroughs to work together on procurement.
- Governance and timelines can be barriers to collaboration.
Attempts to collaborate on projects have often been thwarted by differences in governance approaches between boroughs: this includes the timelines and spend control processes for executing a procurement, differences in leadership, and constitutional discrepancies.
- Boroughs are not always engaging with the market in a meaningful way.
We found that market engagement is not always prioritised as a key input for technology procurement and that when an engagement is run, it does not always reach innovative startups and SMEs. In addition, most boroughs reported having no systematic process for capturing and reviewing inbound supplier ‘pitches’ in a useful or meaningful way.
- Commercial teams can sometimes feel siloed from digital and service teams.
Some commercial teams reported to us that they sometimes felt disconnected from the team scoping out the requirements and user need at the beginning of the procurement, meaning that the execution does not always deliver on the plan.
- There is no standardised approach to data sharing and APIs.
Suppliers reported significant discrepancies with how different London boroughs approach data sharing and APIs, including pricing models, documentation standards and interoperability requirements. Most authorities confirmed that they did not have a standard approach to data sharing: and all suppliers reported that having one would be positive,
For each of our key challenge statements, we aimed to provide guidance, templates, good practice, or functional no-code resources that can be used to help London boroughs navigate technology procurement.
The resultant toolkit is intended as a ‘master guide’ for multiple users in a borough, providing tools and tips across the lifecycle of a procurement. It moves from the early-stage planning and preparation activities, through to designing and executing a great procurement, as well as how to manage suppliers in a way that fosters collaboration partnerships.
Our key aim is to foster greater collaboration between London boroughs, and to create a more holistic, unified London ‘whole’. As you move through our guidance, you’ll see that there is a ‘thread’ of collaboration, which is weaved throughout the entire end-to-end process.
‘Working together’ on procurement can mean sharing ideas and approaches at the early stage, running joint market engagement activities, negotiating standard terms or pricing with a supplier, or even joint procurement. Tools like CityTools and now Thirty3 can help boroughs to look across at what their colleagues in other boroughs are working on. Our toolkit is geared towards making collaboration possible at every stage of a procurement.
Where possible, we have tried to create template contracting terms and specifications, or point to places where you can find them. This includes terms for continuous improvement throughout the life cycle of a contract, for data access and APIs, and for how to run innovative procurement procedures.
What can LOTI do?
Right now, we are opening up for consultation and engagement with London boroughs again. We want to hear your views on anything we’ve missed, anything you disagree with, and anything that would help to make this toolkit more useful in your team.
This toolkit plays a part in LOTI’s broader approach to support innovation and collaboration in London procurement. Throughout the toolkit, you’ll see references to how you can use existing LOTI resources, such as the CityTools spend database, and the cross-London Thirty3 opportunities platform.
Beyond this, PUBLIC and LOTI will be working together over the coming months to implement the toolkit and approach to an upcoming cross-borough procurement in the housing technology space. If boroughs would like to get involved in that process, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
And we want to turn the approach we take on this housing procurement into a sustainable long-term forum to cross-London procurement. The next phase of this project will see us bringing together the right governance structure and approach to supporting innovation and collaboration in the long-term.