It’s time to reconsider procurement traditions. Quickly.

As we start 2018 Rob Levene, Managing Director of Bloom, ponders if traditional frameworks still have a place and why public sector buyers of professional services should look to alternative compliant routes.

 A lot of my thinking happens on the train in the morning. And this morning, as I sat reading “the 80 Minute MBA”, (ironic, I know) I stopped for a moment to think about a particular chapter which focused on the unprecedented pace of change in the world. And then I looked around and noticed that almost everyone in the carriage was using some kind of technology – most were on or looking at their phones, some also listening to music/podcast etc on their headphones, some reading on digital books, some working on tablets or laptops. And there was me and one other person reading an old-fashioned paperback.

And when I got to the office, I wondered, are traditional frameworks about to become as old-fashioned as paperbacks?

Heritage should be respected, but let’s stop for a moment to consider what procurement professionals need and want.  Feedback from our buyers across the public sector is consistent; the pace of change in the public sector is such that the traditional framework route is no longer fit for purpose.  Their complaints? It’s too slow.  It’s not innovative. It’s not dynamic.  There’s no support for developments like agile procurement or project management, and it can’t keep up with the pace of change needed for new thinking on complex issues and budget challenges.

Out with the old and in with the new?

It’s the start of a new year. A traditional time to consider what we want to change in our professional and personal lives.  I think it’s time to consider a change in the way the world buys professional services.

There’s a couple of burning platforms which help this case. For example, anyone looking to Crown Commercial Service (CCS) as a compliant route for consultancy around business strategy  will currently find a void. The old Consultancy One framework expired in December 2017 and Lot 1 (Business Consultancy) of the new CCS Management Consultancy Framework was not awarded.  Its replacement is not expected to be in place until Spring 2018.

So just for a moment, let’s assume that I’m right and it’s time to replace the framework route (bear with me). Let’s agree that the old way of buying through fixed frameworks should be retired like last month’s Christmas decorations and consider possible alternatives. And if there was an alternative, what exactly would it need to offer?

Based on our clients’ feedback, it would need to be dynamic, allowing access to a supply chain that flexes according to need.  It should allow for new commercial models like gain and risk share with payment on delivery only and of course have a focus on outcomes.  Speed to market is paramount, with the ability to facilitate strategic objectives such as supporting local or SME suppliers, all without taking on additional risk.

New resolutions

And here’s why I’m confident that I’m right. The NEPRO neutral vendor solution ticks all those boxes, and Bloom has been helping public sector organisations use this alternative successfully since 2013.

We now count over 170 Contracting Authorities among our buyers and a community of 4,000 plus suppliers who have so far delivered £20m in savings through 2,000+ professional services projects.  We passionately believe that even more organisations can benefit and you can read about some of the successes our clients have already enjoyed in our Chairman’s latest blog. We are working with 10 new buying organisations a month and are busy building a business that will allow for significant increase in scale.

I’m proud that unusually, this is an innovation that the private sector is interested to follow – learning from the public sector’s example.  The neutral vendor approach is accepted in other categories and approaches such as dynamic purchasing systems are now becoming established, but it’s not common to see public innovation driving behaviours in the private sector. So it must be good (I told you to bear with me!)

In summary, if you’re a supplier of public sector professional services looking for a compliant route to market, Bloom can help you break with tradition and embrace change in 2018.  It might just become a habit.


Rob Levene is Managing Director of Bloom.