I’ve come across several examples recently, including two which concerned me greatly, which highlight the importance of post contract award implementation and mobilisation. A contract has been awarded through a compliant procurement process, either a full OJEU process or the slightly simplified Request for Proposal process, but after the contract has been awarded I’ve got the distinct sense that the school has decided that the work is complete at that stage, that there’s nothing further that needs to be done. But in actual fact, that is where the hard work continues, because you must spend time implementing the contract correctly.
As an example, you need to make sure that the contract documentation that you receive from the supplier accurately reflects everything in the Invitation to Tender (ITT) or Request for Proposal (RFP) response. If something ever goes to court, a judge will only ever look at the contract document - they won’t be interested in what was in the ITT documents, only the contract. In particular, you must ensure that if there are terms and conditions in the contract that directly contradict what was said in the ITT, then they must be changed. Or if you feel very strongly that there’s an aspect of the ITT response that should be reflected in the contract, make sure that it is included. Suppliers do usually have a standard set of terms and conditions, however they are not averse to having them changed, and quite often in fact expect you to amend these. You should make your changes, send them to your lawyer, and then return them to the supplier so that they can consider your amendments. I would strongly recommend taking the time to ensure that the contract reflects accurately what was in the tender documentation.
The next thing to check are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). If you have agreed some KPIs, make sure that not only are they reflected in the contract, but that you also have a mechanism, and some timings, for those KPIs to be monitored. I would strongly suggest that booking in the meetings to review the KPIs for the first 12 months is undertaken right at the start of the mobilisation process. Speak to the supplier and say ‘for the next 12 months I want a monthly meeting, on these dates’ and get them booked in the diary so you know that they’re happening. That way, you can make sure that you have your walk-around meetings and that you assess the KPIs alongside the supplier on a very regular basis. If something then starts to go wrong with the contract, and there’s all sorts or reasons why that might happen, then you already have the meeting in the diary, and you are monitoring it. This means you can quickly make allowances, and adjustments, for changes to the service provision, before it goes downhill for a long period of time and it becomes so much harder to fix.
The other thing to look at is Service Level Agreements (SLAs). As with Key Performance Indicators, if you have something in a SLA that you need to be monitoring, make sure that you’ve got the mechanism for doing that. Some companies offer intranet sites where you can review the SLAs or the KPIs on a regular basis. If that’s the case, make sure you have access to that site. Again, take the time to go through the tender documentation and make a list of all the things you are expecting to receive as a result of that contract award, and then make sure you get them all! Keep them on a tick list and keep it somewhere handy, so that until you’re satisfied that all the things that you asked for, all the things that you are paying for as part of your contract, have been delivered, that that list stays live and is talked about on a regular basis with the supplier, either by phone or email or at the regular review meeting that you have.
This stuff may sound really basic but it’s hugely important and if missed far too often. There have been several times where I have gone to a school where this hasn’t happened. Quite often I’m at the school because they’re telling me that the service has dropped off a cliff, that they’re not happy with it or that they’re not happy that the specification is being met. When we sit down and I ask what the KPIs are and how they’re being monitored, we realise that they haven’t been monitored at all. It’s no wonder that the supplier is not meeting the terms of the contract! Now of course this should also be the joint responsibility of the service provider, but they’re busy too, they might also drop the ball. If you as the school want to ensure that you are getting best value, that you’re getting what you paid for, then you need to take responsibility for ensuring that this happens.
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