7 tips to procure the design team you want at the speed you need

7 tips to procure the design team you want at the speed you need

According to a recent article in The Times, “One of the most high-profile phenomena of the 21st-century higher education landscape is large-scale, large-budget expansion projects.”

This was a reference to a 2017 report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (just before it was disbanded and replaced by the new Office for Students) that stated that UK universities had spent £27.9 billion on improving physical infrastructure since 2006. The report went on to forecast that a further £19.4 billion would be invested in the period 2016/17 to 2019/20, a 48 per cent increase on the previous four-year average.

This growth is excellent for the sector and the students, but it raises the question – how can universities compliantly access suppliers of choice? This is the most common question I am asked by Buyers here at Bloom.

Accessing suppliers of choice

This expansion has been clearly reflected in work we’ve done with our c.30 university clients who we’re helping to buy professional services. At the moment we’re seeing particular demand for construction design teams as many universities are investing in their infrastructure to provide a superior student experience. Most of those universities have struggled to find and then appoint the right design team, on time and within budget; which is a massive problem when you consider the scale of the construction taking place throughout the UK university sector.

So, as the sector expert for education at Bloom, I was pleased to present at the Education Estates and Facilities Show in June, to share what this experience of working with universities procurement teams has taught me.

Here are my Top Tips for finding the right design team in the most efficient way:

1. Create high quality specifications

Be very clear on project deliverables, the outcomes drive the project and should be linked to payments. Use your specification to control costs whilst allowing for innovative solutions.

High quality specifications will give suppliers the tools they need to provide a valued response. Clarify any specific project terms and conditions from the outset, whether that be collateral warranties, specific insurance levels or novation. There is little more frustrating than suppliers negotiating terms after an award.

2. Don’t restrict your choice of suppliers

Base your supplier list on the project specifics and your desired outcomes.
Don’t be restricted by fixed supplier lists within accepted procurement routes. Use the opportunity to choose the best suppliers to deliver your project and receive innovative and creative responses that will keep you in tune with the market.

By not restricting your supplier list, you can choose suppliers that will address your specific requirements, whether that be based on track record, previous work for feasibility, locality, social value or any key requirements that focus on the project specifications. At Bloom, we have the ability to perpetually enrol suppliers that makes compliant access to suppliers of choice a possibility.

3. Make your evaluation criteria count

Decide on your evaluation criteria with the appropriate weightings between quality and cost.

Where the specification is allowing flex for creativity of suggestions from the market, give a target price and adjust your criteria accordingly so that you are not bound to the cheapest response whilst ensuring best value for money. Through NEPRO, Bloom works with buyers to save them between 8% and 20% on average in the construction category, depending on whether they choose a compliant direct award or mini competition respectively. And with this approach, everyone is confident that supplier outcomes are delivered without compromise.

If you are requesting social value outcomes, include this within the requirements overview to ensure suppliers address this component adequately and incorporate them with the project deliverables.

4. Warm up the market

There is nothing more frustrating than receiving no bids.

That’s why it’s so important to warm up the market and check on supplier capacity to bid and then deliver. This removes the risk of receiving delayed or no tender responses. Going out to market with a specific supplier list rather than an open tender increases the supplier’s probability of winning which in turn reduces their risk ensuring a response when capacity allows.

You can also check in with suppliers on timelines for responses and even benchmark price to ensure quality and on time responses.

5. Allow enough time for quality responses

No matter how quickly you need someone on site, shortening the time to respond can affect the quality of supplier responses.

When the timeline is too quick, suppliers will assume the mini-competition has a pre-determined outcome and will not bid. We have found that giving suppliers at least 2 weeks for a standard project removes this issue. For more complex projects, check in with the suppliers, they will give you an idea of a suitable timeline.

A fast tender process is only fast if you receive enough quality responses to award, after all!

6. Agree your T’s and C’s

Project specific terms should be clearly stated in the project specification for suppliers to respond to. There should be no room for suppliers to dictate terms once the award has been made.

Our accreditation process at Bloom requires suppliers to accept the terms and conditions before they’re able to submit a proposal. In addition, we advise including project specific elements such as the signing of collateral warranties or increased insurance levels within the specification and include the signing of the collateral warranty as the projects first milestone to avoid delay.

7. Define project milestones

Ensure the project milestones are clearly defined from the outset, and only pay once the work has been delivered and authorised.

With Bloom, if a milestone has not been met as identified via a Highlight Report process, a supplier is unable to submit an invoice to Bloom to receive payment. Clearly defined milestones with payment on delivery also helps to keep suppliers incentivised to continue working with you to achieve the desired outcome.

Of course, you may have other challenges with your design and construction projects, but experience in working with 180+ higher education projects and over 650 construction projects through Bloom and NEPRO has taught me that these 7 tips are essential to achieving the best outcomes. With c.£20BN expected to be spent by 2020 on more higher education infrastructure; control, choice and value for money is key.







Louise Barker is Bloom sector expert for education