Outsourcing professional services with Bloom – the shape of things to come

In case you haven’t heard of Bloom Procurement Services (which if you work in the field of professional services, or indeed hire professional services, then you probably have), they specialise in bringing together a marketplace of buyers and suppliers to help the public sector buy professional services compliantly and cost effectively. Acting rather like a specialist procurement outsourcing service provider for the professional services category, Bloom is the UK’s exclusive operator of the NEPO Specialist Professional Services vendor-neutral solution, and it works with more than 380 public sector organisations.

We found the Bloom model to be an interesting proposition a few years ago when we wrote about how it operates and what it provides, enabling clients to engage a wide range of professional services suppliers, big or small, while staying within the EU and UK regulatory framework and driving good practice. The transaction, contract and management is with Bloom, while the project is carried out by a wide range of more than 6,500 supplier organisations, including a high proportion (over 70%) of smaller companies, which supports the government agenda to promote SMEs.

But a lot has changed for Bloom in those years, including profit growth, rapid people growth, and system improvements like faster onboarding and data analysis to give clients more detailed information about their professional services spend, and offering recommendations to drive better outcomes and value. And just last year Bloom launched the UK’s first source-to-pay procurement solution specifically for the public sector.

So we caught up with the relatively new managing director Adam Crampsie, who has further plans and an innovative vision for the firm.

A bit of background

Adam joined Bloom eight months ago. He comes from a background predominantly in the health care space, beginning his career in the hybrid world of NHS services and public sector outsourcing. At Celesio UK, then McKesson, he was involved in the outsourcing of core services for hospitals, health trusts and community providers as an innovative provider to the NHS, devising new delivery models, financial benefits and greater value from outsourcing models. So his introduction to procurement was from the other side of the fence, as a supplier, trying to find procurement routes to market. It was there that he realised his penchant for growing business.

He went on to Nuffield Health where he oversaw commercial development and category growth, and there he added social value, process, systems and tech expertise to his growing business acumen.

What attracted him to Bloom?

“As poacher turned game keeper,” he tells us, “I was fascinated by this small, but expanding, innovative organisation and what it had achieved. Bloom was revolutionary in taking what was essentially a time-and-materials-based professional services industry and making it outcomes-based and measurable. It really appealed to me as something special, and I realised it had lots of potential.”

Weaving in the social value aspect, the social return on investment, Bloom became even more interesting for Adam. “The Bloom marketplace,” he says, “has great opportunity to grow the voluntary, community, social enterprise services, charities and SME sectors that typically wouldn’t have a route to market to access public sector services, whether because they find themselves blocked out from traditional frameworks, or simply don’t have the business development capabilities to be able to compete.”

The £250m in contracts that Bloom awarded to SMEs last year also excites him. “There is a part of social value that is more than just delivering outcomes and protecting the public purse,” he says, “it’s about having the governance around it to put money into local economies and help grow them through a diverse supply chain in a marketplace that allows that to happen. The Bloom solution supports this, because it means local and combined authorities can create a sustainable local supply chain for their services provision housed in one marketplace. There’s no other place that can offer this route to economic growth in a compliant manner.”

He is keen to augment this using his learnings from other sectors about systems, processes and strategy for growth, and apply them to Bloom.

Another major strength of Bloom, of which many are unaware, he tells us, is its sheer market diversity. “With an outside-in view of Bloom, you have a preconceived idea of the great service it provides in bringing procurement to the public sector. But it’s only once inside that you realise the diversity of what’s being delivered. For example, I have signed a contract through Bloom, on behalf of one of my customers, with an outcome related to the space exploration programme SpaceX. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d be involved in a contract about space, and it’s indicative of the diverse range and complexity of categories that Bloom delivers across the public sector.”

So where next?

“There’s no doubt the organisation has done an amazing job in growing the local government side of the business,” he says. “About 70% of local government organisations use Bloom, and central government use is growing. We have seen significant growth in spend this year, but in the context of whole public sector spend, there is still a large amount of market share untapped. So I am setting my sights on growing the spend going through the system to create more outcomes for more buyers and more suppliers. A big part of that will be deepening relationships and deepening partnerships across all the main sectors.”

“But for me, where Bloom really excels, is in the expertise it has inside the organisation – and we haven’t shouted about this as much as we should. Our approach to the sectors of central government, NHS, blue light organisations and so on is solid, but our real magic comes from looking at the horizontal categories across all of those verticals. ICT and construction are two examples. So leveraging and building our expertise from a category perspective to be the trusted expert or partner is where the business strength really lies.”

Adam has a real passion for the public sector, data and openness, and he plans to use his knowledge of all three, the expertise within Bloom and the marketplace of highly engaged suppliers to better advance what the public sector is doing. “We already have many thousands of specifications on projects we’ve delivered to date in our specification library,” he says, “whatever comes our way, we’ve probably seen an iteration of it before. So we are looking at how we harness all that rich data, and use it across the public sector to better suit and inform the future market.”

Is the future in data?

“We are a people-based business, and we have invested heavily in our commercial team to make sure we have the right people bringing the right solutions to our customers. Using our knowledge from previous projects and the trends we see coming (like the huge growth categories of social care and digital transformation post covid) we can show potential customers what we’ve done from a transformation perspective on the delivery of social care and bring suppliers to the forefront with the outcomes they’ve delivered. So I see harnessing insights and data, overlaid across the Bloom marketplace of really high-quality suppliers, making a significant difference to the public sector and the outcomes it delivers. And the more data we amass, the richer our knowledge. All of this, alongside having the best route to market to make a compliant purchase, is where I see Bloom setting itself apart from anyone else in the market.”

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