Lessons from Government Procurement Service / Emptoris ADDSS issues

We reported yesterday on the GPS issues with regard to the ADDSS tender. After the system crashed, GPS asked suppliers to submit information manually, but had to pull the exercise when not all suppliers co-operated in that work-around.

We also quoted the GPS statement to us on what had happened / what was being done about it.  GPS told us “...the ADDSS procurement was affected by hardware capacity issues for the servers running the eSourcing system. The servers are provided through the agreement with IBM Emptoris”.

So we also asked Emptoris for a comment but unfortunately despite multiple attempts we haven’t been able to obtain anything. (A thick blue blanket of caution seems to have enveloped people we know, like and respect in Emptoris – if this had happened a year ago, I’m sure we would have had a helpful comment within hours)!

But we thought we should try and draw out some points to note and lessons learnt.

  1. Whilst this was a huge procurement (see point 5), we’d suggest Emptoris clients might like to check just what constraints there are on “server capacity”, particularly if you’re running very large sourcing exercises.
  2. Few other organisations run tenders on quite the scale of GPS. But other public sector organisations considering moving to the Emptoris platform under the GPS agreement will no doubt want to check that matters have been resolved fully before they do so.
  3. Indeed, how Emptoris / IBM respond to GPS now will determine whether this is just a minor “blip” in their relationship or an issue that affects wider and longer-term public sector business for the firm. If I was in their shoes, I would be very, very nice to David Shields (CEO at GPS) for a while!
  4. Independent of who your provider is and whether they talk about “cloud”, it’s worth establishing just how they manage capacity peaks within your portfolio of work or indeed across their whole client base.
  5. Buyers might also want to ask themselves whether sourcing exercises need to be quite so enormous? One positive outcome from this incident is that GPS are looking hard at how to simplify their own major tenders, as it was in part the sheer volume of bidders and the documentation GPS required from them that triggered the ADDSS problem.  Is it essential to ask for so many different documents (certificates, compliance statements, separate references) or ask quite so many questions?
  6. That’s a different issue however to where you’re running optimisation / market informed sourcing exercises, where the system’s processing capacity is being used in a value-adding manner to analyse and optimise possible sourcing outcomes across multiple variables. In such cases, the provider’s ability to access the required processing power and capacity is critical.
  7. As GPS found with their bidders, you can't necessarily expect potential suppliers to play ball if you need their help! If this had been a private sector exercise, any supplier who didn’t co-operate in the manual work-around would just have been excluded from the process. Life is more difficult in the public sector, as we’ve said before.

And finally...

8.  If your life depends on getting something out of the IBM press office, say your prayers now.


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