Frameworks – The Buyers’ Perspective

Frameworks remain one of the best routes for buyers to engage with the market. But before you go to market, here are some key things for framework buyers to consider:

1. Make your framework attractive to the market what is it that makes your framework worth bidding for? This has to be one of the main questions which is so often unanswered before bidders go to market. Too often, the frameworks provide loose aspirations or implications of the potential work on offer. Alternatively, they state that a number of organisations have expressed interest in using the framework, but there is little guarantee of work package for the bidder’s side. Wherever possible, provide realistic expectations of what your framework will be worth to the market and its membership. Remember Suppliers could take weeks bid writing to submit a bid so you want your framework to pass their Bid/No Bid decision gate!

2. Flexibility – so often frameworks tie bidders in for a long period of time. But how sustainable is this and does that completely lock out any new market entrants? What if a new technology or product innovation comes to market, will any of the current framework providers be able to supply this? To limit rogue spend, framework providers should have an ability to be flexible e.g. through utilising a Dynamic Purchasing System or having the ability to add providers when a specialist need arises.

3. Quality versus price – post Grenfell and Carillion, there has been a drive to increase the quality scoring, moving away from a lowest price wins approach to bids which can drive the wrong sort of behaviours. But how are these quality scores reflected in the final bid? If Quality accounts for 70% of the marks, bidders need to be given fair chance to show the quality of their service and a few technical / quality questions of no more than 500 words in length, does not give scope for this. Alternatively, expecting bidders to write reams of broadly repetitive responses will not provide an enjoyable procurement experience for bidder or buyer, who will have a huge evaluation workload to assess all tenders.

4. Fair share – it is vital that all providers on the framework get a fair share of work. This can be achieved in multiple ways such as a ‘next cab on the rank’ approach or limiting the number of providers for each opportunity. Whichever approach is taken, consider the initial cost of bidding and investing in collaboration as part of the framework and whether your members will have made that back each year.

5. Pushing down the food chain – as well as appointing the framework, consider how work can be pushed to SMEs which are the lifeblood of the British economy. For primary contractors, what strategies do they have in place to engage with smaller companies? Also for locally based frameworks, what is being done to engage with local companies? For local authorities, this is key when a primary contractor is engaged, as they bring in contractors from outside the area when a more local supplier is available, so consider the local economic benefits that should be derived.

6. Training for members – consider what benefits you can give to members of the framework. The North East Procurement Organisation hosts a business club for all of its suppliers which includes training to ensure they are tender ready and have the skills to respond to bids.

7. Active framework promotion and management – to make the framework work for all parties, it needs to be actively promoted. This can be done through traditional methods including press, social media and meet the buyer events but also consider more subtle and regular promotion, rather than just a framework launch. The framework also needs ongoing management, coordination of upcoming work packages and an understanding of all framework providers services. This open and transparent communication allows all sides to plan and start the process as early as possible to consider the most cost-effective and innovative way of delivering any work package.

8. Social Value/Community Benefits – this has been an increasing drive for bidders to provide a seemingly never ending ‘wish list’ as part of frameworks’ possible commitments. A growing trend has been for bidders to provide a level of financial contribution, and then the buyer to decide how best to spend this pot to deliver social value in the communities it serves. This is often a more effective way to operate, rather than having charity competition and duplication, with framework suppliers all trying to meet similar targets for apprenticeships or other community strategies.