29 September 2020

View from the top

As a result of promoting the joint webinar which took place on Thursday (1 October) with Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and the Transport Technology Forum (TTF) I’ve been contacted on a number of occasions over this past week or so, primarily by SMEs who have wanted to share some of their frustrations concerning their ability to access frameworks and contracts in the public sector.

They talked about the complexity of the tenders and the stringent conditions sometimes placed on their businesses which make some of the opportunities far less attractive than they otherwise might be. I’m not too sure that clients always appreciate just how difficult some SMEs find the whole process which in turn can constrain the level of competition for any given opportunity.

Larger organisations tend to have inhouse bid writers, environmental experts, social value specialists, etc, but in the SME world these roles are often the responsibility of a single person. Not for one moment am I suggesting there is a ‘one size fits all’ approach to procurement in the highways sector as client needs are diverse. Not all clients have the capability or capacity to manage frameworks with multiple providers and therefore there will always be a need for larger contractors to take on an integrated role covering a wider range of services in the strive to deliver best value. What I would ask clients to think about when procuring services is to make the procurement fit for purpose. If you are targeting SMEs don’t always expect them to interpret your policies and strategies, think carefully about the implication of placing a levy on any works orders issued and make sure your barriers to entry on turnover and insurance reflect the work that will be carried out on the contract.