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Informal Pre-procurement Conversations with the Government

by sourcingfocus

Informal Pre-procurement Conversations with the Government

26th January 2012

Due to misconceptions and over-interpretation of EU rules, sophisticated pre-procurement conversations were something that outsourcers only dreamed of. Now following Francis Maude’s statement: The Crown & Suppliers, a new way of working, those dreams are about to come true.

The NOA Masterclass, Informal Pre-procurement conversations with the Government, was hosted by Yvonne Williams and featured three key speakers who shared their insights on informal conversations with the Government.

Ian Cartledge is a senior Business Development Director at Teleperformance UK specialising in the Public Sector.  He has over 20 years’ experience of working in the Business Process Outsourcing and contact centre industry.

Ian presented on how suppliers can be proactive with Government before the start of a formal procurement process, without it being seen as creating bias and unfairness in the process.

Ian said: “What should come before procurement is ‘Market Consultation’. The cost of public sector in France is £19,000 – and in the UK its £46,000. It typically costs four times as much to bid for a public sector contract than it does overseas. This can possibly be reduced through early talks.”

Ian emphasised that an open dialogue should be:

• Planned, transparent and universal
• That goes beyond the “usual suspects”, a range of views from a range of potential providers
• It is early enough in the process so that Government bodies can seek or accept advice that may be used in the preparation of the specifications

Technical dialogue sessions or supplier days are a great way to engage

• Gathering reliable information from the supply side to help build confidence in the viability of an effective procurement
• They are seen as vital in terms of obtaining market intelligence about what types of solutions may be out there
• Supports the design of a fit-for-purpose procurement, one that is lean (thus saving on process cost) and one that will deliver better outcomes
• Provides the foundation for a well thought out and researched PQQ and ITT providing the right information first time round for companies to respond to
• Allows companies to ask specific questions to perfect their bid rather than just trying to collate basic information to enable a response
• Helps build knowledge – having an understanding of what is being tendered, and when, helps companies to plan

Ian Hamerton, National Contact Centre Manager, NHS Blood & Transplant, has managed significant and lasting improvements in the service provided to donors.

Ian shared his experiences of purchasing processes and offered tips on how to get the best out of a pre-procurement meeting along with the process of retendering or putting together a new contract.

Pre-Procurement Meeting

• Acknowledge differences of interpretation with good grace
• Give everyone the same answer to the same question
• Ensure everyone at this stage knows what every question is
• Understand that most will not share their concerns in open court
• Try to anticipate issues and provide answers

Retendering or New Contract?

• If re-tendering be absolutely certain no routine contact with the incumbent delivers preferential knowledge or understanding
• Existing suppliers need to guard against complacency
• If a totally new project ensure everyone who applies receives the same information
• Potential suppliers must respond in the manner, format and with the information asked for – particularly important with the onset of computerised purchasing tools

Mike Ferguson is Head of Operational Procurement at Land Registry. Mike manages a team of procurement professionals primarily responsible for IT spend covering categories including hardware, complex software deals and professional services. Mike also leads all major IT procurements and has considerable experience of supporting major IT change management programmes and latest EU Public Procurement Regulations.

Mike shared his practical experience of pre-market engagement through ‘Concept Viability’.

Concept viability is facilitated by Intellect (trade association UK technology industry). Business needs are collated then circulated to a list of suppliers. Intellect facilitates a report based on findings which is fed back to the land registry.
Mike said: “Land Registry was the first organisation to use concept viability – a process which engages a whole market sector with ‘what is the broad approach of what we are trying to do.’ We see engagement with suppliers before the procurement process absolutely invaluable.” Benefits include:

• Market warmed up
• Senior management support
• Good way for suppliers to interact
• Market intelligence, market capability, market feedback
• Critical review of requirements
• Early visibility of risks
• Help design the procurement process
• Better outcome

The panel discussed various questions from the floor at the end of the session including:

• Do existing suppliers get preferential treatment?
• Has legal intervention increased during the procurement phase?
• Do long-term incumbents really lose a re-tender?
• How can international suppliers feed into the government?
• Can SME’s really win government contracts from the big players?

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