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  • Mark Hastings

Is multi-supplier delivery the way forward?

Public sector procurement is crucially important as the contracts involve vast sums of taxpayers’ money and support the delivery of essential front-line public services.

At present the public sector is dealing with a range of difficult challenges:


  • Reducing budgets.

  • Growing population (upwards cost pressures / increased demand for services).

  • Increasing expectations of users.

  • Instability and unprecedented events such as Brexit.

  • Technology, and the possibilities it offers to transform services, is changing at a rapid pace and will never evolve this slowly again.

These issues create significant uncertainty and highlight the urgent need to continuously adapt and evolve at pace. The public sector ought to consider fundamentally re-architecting itself and its processes to ensure that critical services can continue to be delivered.


Out with the old (guard)

We also know that huge contracts with large systems integrators such as Capita only serve to further constrain public sector organisations at a time when they need to transform rapidly. In addition, disasters such as Carillion demonstrate the risks of relying heavily on large suppliers in trying times.


No single organisation, no matter how large or established, can solve all the current challenges, despite their claims to the contrary. The modus operandi of many large suppliers is to land and expand, focusing on making a difference to their bottom line and shareholders rather than making a difference to the citizens accessing vital public services.


This means that the public sector needs to totally transform itself to deal with and thrive within a volatile and uncertain world. And that’s where a diverse range of specialist suppliers can really help. Since the launch of GCloud almost a decade ago and DOS in 2016, we have seen thousands of suppliers, many of which are SMEs, working with government to bring a refreshing blend of new thinking, innovative approaches and real experience. These developments make the current government marketplace incredibly exciting.




A multi-supplier approach

However, many SMEs continue to feel unable to make a sufficiently significant impact that would allow them to win major public sector contracts. The majority of these programmes are still awarded to larger suppliers who bring scale and corporate case studies without necessarily having the ability to staff the project teams with people who possess the relevant experience and skills. Frustrated by this, we’re seeing SMEs really starting to evolve that market with different models of multi-supplier engagement that provide public sector clients with control, choice, innovation and value.


Here are a few that we've been involved in recently:

  • Acting as a technology-agnostic partner working in collaboration with the public sector client, identifying specialist suppliers to deliver services whilst bringing critical thinking back in-house. This included central and local government disaggregation programmes that have delivered savings as high as 40%.

  • Working as one of multiple suppliers collaborating on discrete pieces of work for a local authority, leveraging the best of the SME market to rapidly develop services.

  • A large, arguably single piece of work broken down by the client and tendered to multiple suppliers (in this case SMEs) in order to leverage key specialisms, where Rainmaker and four other suppliers worked collaboratively as one team with the client.Forming a consortium to really embrace a client’s requirements to act quickly and scale dynamically and innovatively.

The future

Multi-supplier delivery is becoming recognised as not just a viable, but essential alternative to the large systems integrator / large consultancy delivery model.


Still, a multi-supplier contract does bring a different set of challenges. To manage multi-supplier teams effectively requires clear goal setting from the outset as well as a strong central presence. It is also crucial to focus on cultural fit during the tender stage as suppliers need to be able to act as one and become intertwined.


With the right planning and management, multi-supplier delivery works incredibly well and provides viable alternatives to forward-thinking public sector organisations who are fatigued with archaic, expensive and inflexible large suppliers.


Indeed, after the success of the last Crown Commercial Service digital buying community meet-up, multi-supplier delivery is one of the topics recently discussed at the community of practice event in Manchester on 2nd May 2019. This highlights the growing interest in the topic and the potential it brings to significantly enhance public services, deliver exceptional value to citizens and open doors for UK SMEs.


#MakeADifference #multisupplier #transformation

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