£2 Billion Consultancy Framework for UK Government Launched – Where Does Procurement Advice Sit?

One of the biggest UK public sector framework contracting processes has recently been launched by the Crown Commercial Service. The new Management Consultancy framework covers various types of consulting services, and is being advertised in the European Journal (OJEU) as having a potential value of £2 billion – £3 billion over four years.

The new contract will replace the ConsultancyOne framework, which was let after a fairly tortuous process in early 2013. (I did a small amount of consulting, giving advice on their bid to one of the big firms, so I saw the tortuousness from the supply side). There were quite a few delays, but the final lists of firms across 15 “lots” (including five that were finance- and audit-related) weren’t bad, with a reasonable blend of the large firms and smaller more specialist players.

However, and somewhat ironically, the “procurement” lot was one of the weakest (in our opinion anyway), with some firms we’d never heard of, few of the credible blue-chip names, and equally none of the deeply experienced procurement firms (ADR, PMMS, Future Purchasing, Efficio, State of Flux, Proxima, 4C Associates etc). Instead, it seemed to be a list of mainly project management experts, who could probably run a procurement project, but would not for instance be suitable to advise on category management, SRM, or procurement change.

This time around, however, CCS has gone for a different approach. Instead of being based largely around functions – policy development, procurement, HR, economic analysis etc. – the lots are more mixed, some functional, some general and more sector-focused, as you can see here (along with the split into two phases for the procurement process):

Lot 1 — Business Consultancy (Phase 1)
Lot 2 — Finance (Phase 1)
Lot 3 — Audit (Phase 1)
Lot 4 — HR (Phase 2)
Lot 5 — Health and Community (Phase 2)
Lot 6 — Education (Phase 2)
Lot 7 — Infrastructure (Phase 2)
Lot 8 — ICT and Digital Services (Phase 2)

But where does procurement consulting fit?  We asked CCS about this approach and they confirmed that they expected procurement consulting work to “fall across a number of Lots” and that in effect “all of the Lots include procurement advice”.

So running major procurement programmes for a hospital or advising a University on new purchase-to-pay systems would fall under the appropriate sectoral lot. We guess that “business consultancy” could cover a multitude of sins too, including procurement.

On balance, we applaud this approach; it should ensure that the selected suppliers have a good chance of meeting the end-customer needs. CCS has an objective to increase its reach into the wider public sector too, so this should help with that goal. But it does mean that again, we might end up with no “deep” procurement consulting firms on the list.

So it may be the the best strategy for a procurement firm that wants to be considered is to team up in some sort of consortium or sub-contract arrangement with a sector expert – not one of the giant firms probably who have their own capability, but maybe someone who isn’t strong in procurement. That applies not just to procurement firms of course but to other functional specialists. We suspect there will be a lot of conversations going on in the consulting marketplace before the closing date of Valentine’s Day (how romantic)!

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