Imagine if you are a company doing business with the government. In an ideal world you could have conversations with public sector officials about what they would like to achieve, how they would like it to happen, and what are their main priorities. But for any company who actually wants to bid for government contracts, it has always been impossible to have all these conversations until a contract is underway. The idea of pre-procurement conversations has always been frowned on – perhaps due to a misconception over EU rules, but frowned on nonetheless.
But the present government has just issued a statement called ‘The Crown & Suppliers, a new way of working’ that suggests suppliers need to be talking to government before procurement takes place. It costs far more to bid for public sector work in the UK than in other EU countries largely because of this lack of early engagement, so what might change?
I believe that an open, early dialogue based on market consultation between a group of suppliers and the government 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 Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) and Invitation To Tender (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
All this is a step change in the way the government works with suppliers and time is needed to engage using the new methods, but the intention is clearly there from the top level – the government wants to gain expertise from suppliers and to increase the number of potential suppliers who want to work for government.
Photo by Leonora Enking licensed under Creative Commons