Faster procurement has been an ambition of government for over a decade. There is no doubt that reducing the timescales for running a public procurement will reduce costs and accelerate the delivery of benefits to the public sector. However, unfortunately, procurement has also become something of a ‘process treadmill’ with the same people doing the same things day-in and day-out. The newly published Cabinet Office procurement guidance is intended to try to break this pattern but this will not work if the new guidance is followed in the same bureaucratic fashion as before.
Reducing procurement timescales requires both procurement professionals and those they support to move away from doing procurement by ‘rote’ and instead apply their knowledge, skill and intelligence to make the procurement process work for the organisation.
Be rigorous in planning and preparation
Rigorous preparation before starting any procurement is critical to ensuring that it runs smoothly and on time. Resolving the big questions such as: the level and nature of market interest; the definition of the technical and commercial requirements; the evaluation strategy; and most importantly, making sure that the business needs are truly understood is essential. It will mean that once started, the procurement can be almost entirely focused on effective execution, rather than on addressing significant unresolved issues.
It also ensures that the speed of the procurement is balanced with the complexity of the decision-making process. After all, doing things quicker only saves money if the final decision does not end up being a costly mistake. What’s more, interactions with the supplier will be clearer and the proposals they make will be based on a better quality of information and more likely to answer the need.
Change behaviours and attitudes to procurement
The organisation’s procurement and business professionals need to raise up a level and be empowered to make decisions on behalf of the organisation. This will ensure that the procurement professionals operate as a genuine business partner in the process, rather than ‘obstructions’ that simply police the process as they are often perceived. To achieve this, the organisation as a whole needs to raise the priority of procurement activity to build the trust and understanding of their role. If the business is to work in partnership with its procurement colleagues, they will involve them early in the pre-procurement activity and make sure that stakeholders and resources are available on a timely basis.
Organisations also need to take a more balanced view of the genuine business risk that the procurement reflects, so that the increasing risk of legal challenge to the procurement arising from case law and the Remedies Directive is considered alongside the other risks to the organisation and the citizen, such as delays to providing critical services to the public.
The scale of the improvements that the government is demanding will take time to deliver. If organisations start to adopt these practical steps today, it will result in significant reductions in procurement timescales and improve the overall quality of the procurements themselves.
To find out how PA can help you deliver effective and timely procurements, please contact us now.