Latest on Crown Commercial Services Management Consulting Competition

Crown Commercial Services has published a set of slides that it used as part of a webinar recently  relating to the Management Consultancy 2 programme. The broad “Business Consultancy” Lot 1 was previously abandoned, as you may remember, and it looks as if CCS is going to market again with no less than 5 separate Lots as substitutes for the old Lot 1.

This “MCF2” has a timescale which aims for contract award in March 2018, which is highly ambitious to say the least. The Lot structure is:

  1. Business consultancy - Single assignments addressing a broad range of business consulting services both advice and / or delivery. Scope typically national, with the project lasting no longer than 12 months (short term) usually delivered in a single authority, or across sector, without multiple work streams.
  2. Commercial / procurement - Single assignments to provide advice and / or delivery of commercial, supply chain and procurement expertise to Contracting Authorities.
  3. Complex and Transformation Assignments are typically advice and / or delivery of programmes / portfolios of work with a range of work streams.  These are complex,  transformational, large in scale, that may be cross government.
  4. Strategic - Single assignments providing strategic advice to CEO’s Permanent Secretaries, Ministers and other senior civil / public servants ...
  5. Neutral vendor – single service provider to deliver the operational onboarding of Professional Services suppliers.

That is an innovative approach, which certainly addresses a full range of client needs, and it’s very interesting to see the neutral vendor approach – perhaps influenced by the success of the similar NEPO / NEPRO / Bloom agreement?

But the most surprising aspect is that Lots 1 and 2 are apparently unrestricted in terms of the number of suppliers who can get onto the “framework”.  It looks like the quality questions will be about reaching a minimum threshold rather than used to narrow down numbers dramatically, and the model is therefore more like the Digital Marketplace than previous consulting arrangements in terms of framework membership.

What isn’t clear is how pricing fits into that – will there be some sort of benchmark? Or if my quality meets the threshold, can I put in pretty much whatever rates I want?

The other issue is of course how suppliers will be chosen from a framework that might have 100+ firms on it. CCS seem to be proposing a “services filter” which might narrow down the number who are capable of doing specific types of work, but until we know more it is hard to tell how effective that is likely to be.

Our fear would be more direct awards, and less real competition, if users perceive simply that “I'm allowed to use that firm, they’re on the list”. We’ve seen that behaviour in the case of the Digital Marketplace, which has positives and negatives in terms of its structure. But perhaps in the current feverish Brexit climate, allowing Ministers and civil servants to use basically whichever consultants they feel like using is seen as a positive, and the principles of “EU procurement” don’t matter so much!

First Voice

  1. Charlie Middleton:

    My view is that this is all really badly thought out and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what a framework is supposed to be used for. It is supposed to make life easier for customers by creating a limited shortlist of organisations who have been assessed as being the best value for money, but instead they are treating it like G-Cloud with loads of suppliers with minimal checking of quality before listing them.
    The Neutral Vendor lot is also bizarre – they have suggested it is a route for accessing suppliers who are not on any other lot, but this is open for abuse.

    Looks to me that they are just trying to get something in place quickly to cover up the cock up with Lot 1 of the original framework rather than taking the time and effort to put something in palce that actually works.

    I have written a full blog post on this framework entitled “How not to do procurement” at http://charliemiddleton.blogspot.co.uk/

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