Collaboration in UK Public Procurement – Results From Our Survey

We’ve got an extract today from the report we issued towards the end of last year (sponsored by BravoSolution) based on our research around collaboration in UK public procurement - Procurement Collaboration in the UK Public Sector - Key Issues, Successes and Recommendations.

As part of the research, we interviewed some key movers and shakers in the world of procurement collaboration. The interviews provided a wide range of comments, insights and ideas; today, we look at some of the survey results, including how content organisations are with their collaborative relationships, and then get into which categories might best suit collaboration. Finally, the “critical success factors for collaboration” are shown in a table based on our respondents views.

You can download the whole research report here, free on registration.


The Survey Results

1. Most organisations are reasonably content but not delighted about their collaborative activity. We asked “how content are you overall with the results of your collaborative activity”? On a nought to ten scale, around 62% of respondents scored 5, 6 or 7. This suggests there is room for improvement – incidentally, no-one scored ten out of ten, but 2 respondents scored their satisfaction at zero!

2. We asked which categories were most suitable for collaborative activity. The table below shows the results. There may be an element of familiarity here; perhaps in some cases there is a lack of experience of trying to work collaboratively in certain areas that leads people to suggest they are intrinsically unsuitable. On the other hand, that very lack of experience might be because these are difficult categories.

Figure 1: Category Suitability for Collaboration

Best for collaboration – strong agreement Majority respondents positive, some doubts Limited potential


Office products

IT Hardware


IT software / services



Temporary labour

Professional services

Fleet and transport

Waste management

Medical products

Learning and development

Facilities management


Social care

We asked in the survey about the most important success factors for collaboration to work well and asked respondents to nominate three from our list. Perhaps not surprisingly, having a “clear strategy” and understanding the reasons for collaboration came top, with stakeholder buy-in close behind.

That reflects findings from the interviews too (see later section). Real-life experience suggests that top management support is not enough in itself to make collaboration work. Whilst that factor is important, collaboration must gain wider acceptance from key stakeholders such as budget holders and users.


Figure 2 – Critical Success Factors for Collaboration

A clear strategy – understanding why we are doing it 76.5%
Buy-in from internal stakeholders (e.g. budget holders) 68.6%
Communication between all participants 47.1%
Selection of the right suppliers 43.1%
High-performing CBOs or shared services operations 29.4%
Top management support 27.5%
Getting buy-in from procurement staff 9.8%
Other 5.9%




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Voices (3)

  1. RJ:

    There’s a strong element of “No ****, Sherlock” in the results of this research but having worked for a year in the sector now, I believe that strong collaboration in public sector procurement is both very difficult and also absolutely essential to manage the public purse effectively.

    In contrast with private sector collaborations, which in my experience have almost inevitably failed due to conflicting agendas and requirements, the public sector has an inherent duty to maximise the opportunities for consolidation of spend (both cost reduction and quality management), to improve the time to market and to drive compliance with regulations. All of these in theory can and should be facilitated by collaborative working.

    All too often, however, I’ve seen both stakeholders and the collaborative buying organisations shy away from the challenging aspects and support the easy options of either a PSL/framework of the “usual suspects” of suppliers, plus a few SMEs that may never get a sniff of work, or a totally open “dynamic” system that allows almost any supplier to meet very limited criteria and puts all the emphasis on the buying organisation to sort through the masses to find an appropriate provider.

    Whilst both of these solutions do help with the time to market issue via the fact that they are “compliant” procurement processes, they certainly don’t always provide the value and quality of service needed by the public sector and hence, in my opinion, the relatively low satisfaction ratings you’re seeing.

    I’d definitely support your recommendation of “national category teams” to identify potential solutions but these would need to look radically not only at issues such as specifications and selection processes but also to find new mechanisms for the contracting process that give both flexibility to individual buying organisations while still meeting needs for transparency and financial control.

  2. Gemma:

    It’s no surprise that, “Buy-in from internal stakeholders (e.g. budget holders)” is so high up in the success factoring but I’m really surprised that, “Getting buy-in from procurement staff” scores so poorly! Whilst the budget holder is key, if you don’t have buy-in from your staff, you may find your collaborative ideas scuppered.

    1. Peter Smith:

      Maybe it is because procurement staff generally do buy in to the idea so it doesn’t seem like a “burning platform” issue? But I agree with you, I have seen more than one collaborative venture scuppered by procurement people, for good reason or less good! Also.. great comment RJ – totally agree.

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