What’s Behind Bloom’s Rapid Growth – People, Process and Plans (Part 3)

In our two previous articles, here and here, we looked at our recent visit to Newcastle to meet David Shields and some of his new senior team at Bloom Procurement Services.

In our opinion, there are three key points to consider for anyone thinking of using Bloom. We’ll come back to them in a moment, but it is worth admitting that when I first had the Bloom model described to me, it sounded like a smart but somewhat sneaky way to “get around” the EU regulations. As Bloom acts as the prime contractor for the NEPRO framework, you could get any consultant you want through them, without worrying about all those nasty rules on competition and so on.

But Bloom quickly convinced me that wasn’t the motivation or the key selling point. Indeed, I am now convinced that the firm is a positive for public sector value and for better buying of professional services, because they have developed true expertise in the category – becoming in effect an outsourced service provider of effective professional services procurement.

Their first big advantage is therefore this. As David Shields said in one of our earlier articles, Bloom works in a “low-margin, public sector ethos” manner, but the way the NEPRO contract is structured means Bloom can act commercially when they buy professional services on behalf of clients. For instance, they can be more direct in their questioning of potential suppliers than a public body would be, they can choose which firms to approach for RFPs and negotiate, in a “private sector style”. All of this gives them the opportunity to drive better outcomes for clients.

Secondly, that outcome focus is admirable. We’ve always argued that wherever possible, professional services assignments should be bought based on outputs and outcomes, not on day rates, time and materials. Bloom takes that to the extreme; everything they do, every contract, is output based. Far too many consulting contracts let through conventional public sector frameworks are still based on paying a big firm thousands per person day for open-ended and ill-defined work.

Thirdly, as well as the expertise Bloom continues to build, the firm is gathering truly extensive and useful data. Whether that supports benchmarking of prices for particular types of work, or looks at regional and timing variations, or identifies organisations who are generally paying over the odds, this is potentially of great use again in terms of the public sector gaining better value. We suspect eventually there will be more data collected about supplier performance too, which will open up more possibilities and the chance for even greater benefits.

As you probably realise, Bloom is a mid-sized sponsor of Spend Matters, but I hope readers also understand that I don’t write anything here I don’t believe. I’ve gone from being a bit of a cynic about the Bloom model to being a big fan. I’ve also got great admiration for the vision of the folk in the North-east who saw the opportunity in the first place to do something a bit different in this field.  NEPO (the North East Procurement Organisation) itself continues to be a visionary leader in areas such as social value and in how they support the regional supply market.

But back to Bloom to sum up - with David Shields and the new top team getting up to speed rapidly, we’re also confident that the operational capability to deliver is in place, even given the firm’s rapid recent growth. And finally, as a Sunderland man, I say this through gritted teeth, but Newcastle is a fine city these days. If you don’t know it, why not go and take a look, and pop in on Bloom while you’re there!


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