We all know that planning is fundamental to achieving the best results, whether it is to ensure the correct resources are in place for the start of your academic year, or whether it is to be certain that the procurement of your goods and services represent value for money and the most cost-effective solution for your school.
The effectiveness of strategic procurement should not be underestimated, and planning should start at the earliest opportunity. Good procurement decisions are made when careful planning and clear priorities and objectives are set. Ideally this should be in conjunction with the school’s development plan, whereby clear budgets are defined, and all responsible parties can be involved at the outset.
The benefit of having a clear strategy is that not only will key stakeholders, who will ultimately be making decisions, be engaged in the process from the start, but it allows time to explore the market and conduct your procurement effectively. This is particularly necessary for the larger procurements, whereby strict regulations governing public sector spending require a more thorough and robust procurement process.
Be clear on your timescales
The rules regarding school spending over a pre-determined threshold (currently £164, 176) are rigid, and in particular there are very firm guidelines as to permissible timescales. It is therefore imperative to understand what your procurement may involve, and allow ample time to manage the process successfully.
On average, the procurement cycle for an OJEU tender can take up to 6 months to complete particularly when you factor in additional time for school holidays. The most effective procurement strategy will allow for this, and plan accordingly. By being proactive with procurement planning, and recognising the external influences that may also impact the process, the best procurement outcome can be achieved.
Planning is not just about setting budgets and accountabilities, or defining the requirements (though these are obviously fundamental to success). It is also about identifying risks and being prepared for unknown variables that might affect the best procurement outcome. Here at Minerva we have recently seen such things as lack of available human resources in certain geographical areas – this is particularly the case for cleaning contracts. Location can also have an impact on the number of suppliers available to tender – pupil transport suffers from this with a lack of coach companies. We have also seen potential suppliers withdrawing from a procurement process because they are already at capacity. All these scenarios could have been mitigated had planning been more carefully considered.
Ensure supplier engagement
Enabling early engagement in the procurement process means that the potential market, whether it be for goods or services, can be fully investigated. It also means that in effect, you are ‘ahead of the game’. Your procurement opportunity will be more attractive to your potential suppliers when they are still filling their order books. They will not only have more time to manage the requirements of the procurement process, which if left too late can in itself be a reason for a supplier to pass on an opportunity, but they will also have available capacity.
Too many times recently we are seeing suppliers cite over capacity as reasons for a lack of tender submission, whether this is partly due to the effects of Brexit is unclear, but it is becoming a familiar trend. If resourcing is becoming increasingly difficult, be it internal or external, then ultimately the effectiveness and value for money from your procurement may be compromised.
Achieve best value!
In times when budget constraints and financial pressures on schools are ever more important, it is imperative to ensure that your procurements achieve the best value. In the current market, this means a more proactive approach to your procurement strategy. Early involvement is fundamental to ensure the best suppliers are engaged, at the best prices, and with the best available resources. Leaving your procurement strategy too late will undoubtedly compromise your ability to secure the most effective solution for your school, both in terms of cost and performance.
Consider that not only are myriad suppliers competing for your procurement opportunities, but their services are also being acquired by schools and businesses across the country. Try and avoid competing in this market during peak times, and be prepared to start your procurements sooner than the rest. Not only will this give you the best position commercially, but it will also allow you to plan and manage your procurement more efficiently and effectively.
So, in summary, if you have a contract which is due to renew in September 2018 it would be extremely prudent to start your procurement process as soon as possible in this new academic year. And if your contract renews before then it should be a priority for you on your return from the summer break.
Tender and Compliance Officer
Minerva Procurement Consultancy Services