On 14 November 2018, the European Commission and UK negotiators reached an accord on the full scope of the Withdrawal Agreement and constructed an outline for the political declaration on the future of the relationship between the EU and the UK.
The coverage of the draft treaty agreement presented to parliament has been extensive; most trade journals have already provided comprehensive coverage on the most salient details for each industry.
As DeNove specialises in public sector procurement, we decided to shed some light on the meaning of the recent draft treaty and how it will impact public sector procurement.
The section of the draft treaty that addresses public sector procurement can be found on page pages 132 – 136 of the draft treaty. It is not the most accessible of documents and so we have provided a more succinct explanation of what to expect below.
First and foremost, there is to be a transition period, which will conclude on the 31st December 2020. This decision takes into account the UK’s initial request for a transition period of approximately two years. The dates also coincide with the end of the current long-term EU budget (the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020).
The Treaty and associated EU Withdrawal Agreement provides legal certainty on public procurement procedures. During the transition period, the current EU procurement regulations will prevail. This situation will then continue for any ‘in-flight’ procurements. Effectively, if a procurement has commenced (i.e. a contract notice has been issued) then it is our understanding that the procurement will continue to run in accordance with The Public Contracts Regulations (2015) and EU law. Put simply, procurements will continue to exist under the same procedural and substantive policies as the ones that were in effect at the time of their commencement.
We will write more about the likely situation post the transition period once the situation becomes clearer, but in the meantime if you have any questions regarding how this will impact your business then please feel free to give us a call.
For further information, please see our previous Brexit related articles here and here.
On the 13/09/2018, the Department for Exiting the EU published a technical notice entitled ‘Accessing Public Sector Contracts if there’s No Brexit Deal’. This Department has been publishing a series of technical notices to help businesses, citizens and the wider government understand the implications of a ‘no deal’ outcome in March 2019.
The possibility of a ‘no deal’ scenario in March 2019 has been a cause for great concern for many businesses. While a ‘no deal’ exit will certainly have a major impact on many businesses, the systems and processes for accessing public sector contracts will remain largely the same.
Below, we have outlined what accessing public sector contracts is likely to entail in the event of a ‘no deal’ outcome. We hope, and suspect, that this will put our customers’ minds at ease (regarding this point at least).
In the event of a ‘no deal’ outcome in March 2019, the government has stated that a replacement UK-specific e-notification service will be made available. For procuring authorities, this may necessitate a steep learning curve and its introduction may be complicated.
However, for the average British supplier to the public sector, very little will change and what minor differences there are can be overcome via simple workarounds.
Currently, the majority of all English public sector contracts valued over £10,000 for Central Contracting Authorities and £25,000 for Sub Central Contracting Authorities and NHS Trusts are published on Contracts Finder. This will not change. Suppliers looking for smaller sized contracts in the UK will continue to be able to use Contracts Finder (for procurements in England), Public Contracts Scotland (for procurements in Scotland), Sell2Wales (for procurements in Wales) and eTendersNI (for procurements in Northern Ireland).
Effectively, all UK contracts will continue to be published and will be available to anybody seeking access, entirely free of charge.
If British suppliers wish to sell their services internationally, then they will continue to be able to use Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) to do so. It is possible that English contracts will no longer be published on TED. If this is the case, the simple solution for suppliers is to ensure that they are correctly registered on Contracts Finder so that they can use that platform for English tenders. For those wishing to access European tenders, we would recommend setting up a search on TED, as per usual. It is worth noting that both TED and Contracts Finder are free of charge.
In the event that we do fall out of the EU, the technical notice confirms that the UK aims to accede to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA). The UK currently participates in the GPA by virtue of its EU membership. Readers who currently use TED will notice that procurements that are applicable to the WTO rules and regulations are already signposted on all Tender Europa procurements. Each tender notice will feature a question on GPA coverage and will provide a clear ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer. In the vast majority of cases, the answer is ‘Yes’, which means that the impact of acceding to the WTO agreement will be minimal for most companies seeking to access public sector tenders.
What may change, in the long-term, concerns the publishing in English on TED. Currently, TED publishes international tender notices with a full tender notice in the language of the contracting body’s country with a briefer summary in all other official EU languages. Once we leave the EU the TED team may no longer provide an English translation.
We fully appreciate that a ‘no deal’ outcome is likely to have a substantial impact on many areas of our customers’ businesses. However, with respect to the technical notice published by the Department for Exiting the EU, we would like to assure readers that there is little cause for concern regarding accessing public sector contracts post-Brexit.
Sellers: Getting Started
All supplier applications go through the Digital Marketplace. To apply, you must:
- Create, or log into, a supplier account on the Digital Marketplace.
- Start your G-Cloud application.
- Make the supplier declaration on the Digital Marketplace.
- agree to the framework terms
- confirm how you’ll work with government
- answer questions to establish grounds for mandatory exclusion
- answer questions to establish grounds for discretionary exclusion
- provide information about your organisation
- Add service information on the Digital Marketplace.
- 50 words to introduce your service
- 100 words to describe up to 10 service benefits (10 words per benefit), for example simplified system maintenance
- 100 words to describe up to 10 service features (10 words per feature), for example real-time reporting
- You’ll also have your own supplier page where you have 50 words to describe your organisation.
- Before you can submit a cloud service to the Digital Marketplace, you need to add a: pricing document, terms and conditions (specific to that service) document
- Wait for eligibility checks to be made on your information.
- Get the result of your application.
- Sign and return your framework agreement on the Digital Marketplace.
But the G-Cloud is a relatively new route to market, with different buying groups, buying behaviours and competition. It contains a number of novel contractual clauses and commercial obligations and even the style of registration is different to what suppliers may be used to. As such, new and existing suppliers may find it difficult to get to grips with the challenges involved and often neglect to fully think through the opportunities and challenges that the G-Cloud can present to their business.
Thus far, less than 30% of the companies listed on the G-Cloud have made sales and the statistics are even less promising for companies that have registered recently, with four in five G-Cloud 9 suppliers yet to transact a single deal. Which leads us to a very important question; why then have the top five companies on G-Cloud achieved cumulative sales of over £400m between them? What sets these companies apart? Quite simply, they provide services that customers are interested in purchasing and, perhaps less obviously, they have taken the time and effort to optimise their listings. They dovetail their G-Cloud strategy into their overall sales and marketing plan. One of the issues with G-Cloud is that it is deceptively easy to register, which perpetuates a misconception that establishing a successful listing requires little to no effort. This is not the case. But how do you create a successful listing?
We can help with that. DeNové offer end-to-end services or help with specific aspects of the procurement process. We employ a team of expert bid writers, G-Cloud Consultants and Public Sector Procurement Specialists with extensive experience. If you would like more information regarding our bid management and Cloud services, drop us a line.
We would recommend reading the G-Cloud suppliers’ guide to learn more about selling cloud technology, how to register and how to apply. The G-Cloud is expected to open for new suppliers to register their services in April. You can keep up-to-date with the latest news from the Digital Market Place team or just contact us and we will let you know what you have to do and when.
The G-Cloud 10 contract notice has now been published and we anticipate that the site will be open to new applications at 12 noon on the 18th of April. You can start your application here.
How Does It Work?
Hoping to sell on the G-Cloud? Great! But to go fishing, you have to know what you’re fishing for, so it’s important that you understand how buyers buy before you make any attempt to sell to them. Some public sector bodies will still be new to buying and, as such, you may need to explain the process to them. Displaying a thorough understanding of the buying and selling process may well put you at an advantage over other competitors.
For ease of understanding, let’s start simple and take a look at an analogy. Everyone knows eBay and almost everyone has bought from it, which aptly serves the purposes of this guide because the process of buying from eBay is very much like the process of buying from the G-Cloud. Let us take a specific example:
- Step One: You hope to buy a vase.
- Step Two: You search for the vase on eBay, applying filters to specify price range, material, etc.
- Step Three: You shortlist the results to five vase suppliers.
- Step Four: You consider each of them individually to ensure that you get the best value for your money. The first vase does not suit the style you were hoping to procure. The second is shipped from China and the delivery time is too long. The third is too expensive. The fourth is made from the wrong material. And the fifth is perfect.
- Step Five: Having considered all your options, you purchase the fifth vase.
While this is certainly a simplification, it captures the G-Cloud buying process in a clear and accessible way. The crucial difference is that, on the G-Cloud, buyers must be fair to all suppliers and be able to justify their final decision.
Despite the simplicity of the eBay analogy, it is worth noting at this stage that no procurement process will ever be entirely free of complexity. Just as the traditional procurement process required a period of adjustment, understanding all of G-Cloud’s features will take time. But this is time well-spent. Remember, G-Cloud is a programme characterised by its simplicity, flexibility and time-efficiency and, as such, tackling its learning curve will reap exponential benefits. If you’d like to mitigate the learning curve, consider business management and bid writing services. This is our area expertise and we would be keen to offer you our cloud and tender writing services. If you’d like more information on how we can help you execute a successful G-Cloud bid, we’d love to hear from you.
So, what are your potential customers buying from the G-Cloud? Buyers seeking to procure Cloud Hosting, Software or Support, can do so through the Digital Marketplace which is the front-end portal through which they can shop for G-Cloud products or services. The Digital Marketplace helps buyers find suppliers for specialist services for digital projects and cloud technology. These services can be procured through three frameworks:
- cloud services (e.g. accounting software) can be procured through the G-Cloud framework
- digital outcomes, specialists and user research services can be procured through the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework
- physical datacentre space can be procured through the Crown Hosting Data Centres framework
One of the major benefits of the G-Cloud is that it is a OJEU compliant framework. But what does this mean? It means that any public sector buyer can buy from the G-Cloud without needing to execute a full-fledged procurement. However, one critical element for buyers to remember is that G-Cloud does not allow for mini-tenders. Buyers can, however, contact suppliers directly outlining their requirements and requesting clarification on how the supplier would hope to approach the project, to include cost and timeframes. In effect, these clarification requests serve a very similar purpose to that of a mini-tender.
Via the Digital Marketplace, buyers are able to perform a keyword search. They can apply filters to the search to specify a wide variety of criteria including supplier type, user support, staff security clearance, minimum government security clearance and pricing. The search will then produce a list of suppliers registered to the framework who can meet the buyer’s requirements. One of the most notable features of G-Cloud is that all registered suppliers have pre-authenticated information about their company and the way they work, which saves buyers time during the procurement process. We have summarised the buying cycles below.
Buyers: How they Buy
It is important to remember that G-Cloud requires buyers to consider every supplier equally and fairly, to facilitate equal opportunity in the marketplace. This entails performing a comprehensive analysis of what the market can offer by undertaking a meticulous shopping experience on the G-Cloud; this also requires buyers to maintain a record of each of the steps they have taken so that they can justify their final decision. Tools and Templates are available to support this.
The steps in the buying process are as follows:
- Write a list of your requirements and get approval to buy what you need.
- Search for services and save your search.
- Refine your saved search using the filters.
- End your search.
- Download your search results, review and compare services.
- Choose your service, award and sign the contract (or ‘call-off’).
- Publish the contract on Contracts Finder.
- Complete the Customer Benefits Record form.
Buyers must treat all suppliers equally. As such, if only one supplier meets a buyer’s needs, then they can award the contract to them without taking any further measures. However, it is typical that a buyer will have to draft a shortlist of suppliers. In this case, the buyer is required to choose the supplier with the most economically advantageous tender. Otherwise known as MEAT.
“The process of evaluating suppliers and their services was straightforward. We looked at the services available through the Digital Marketplace and used the filter system to get to our short list. The process took around 3 hours. Then we issued an invitation to tender (ITT) to those shortlisted suppliers. One of the benefits of buying through the Digital Marketplace is that buyers are able to reduce the time the ITT is open for.”
- Stephen Perrins, Category Manager Contracts for ICT, Protective Services, County Policing Command, Criminal Justice at Suffolk and Norfolk Constabulary
If you would like to make more money from your G-Cloud listings or are looking to take a listing for the first time then please do get in touch. Our team are experts in how the G-Cloud functions and how best to position our client’s services for success. Our G-Cloud services include:
- G-Cloud briefings for management teams of companies considering taking a G-Cloud listing for the first time.
- Seminars for sales teams to teach them about the G-Cloud and how to win more sales in the new G-Cloud regime.
- Optimising existing or new service portfolios to rapidly increase sales and market share.
Confused? You’re not the only one. If you’re lucky, you turned to Google for some much-needed clarification and stumbled across this guide, which was designed to strip away the jargon and provide an exhaustive source of information regarding the G-Cloud, how to register and how to apply. If you’re unlucky, you’ve been staggering around in the virtual ether gathering snippets of semi-relevant information and are on the verge of ripping your hair out.
Don’t worry; you got here in the end.
While the G-Cloud programme has certainly seen mammoth success rates during its 5 years, with reported sales of £2,852,725,836 in December 2017, there remains a misconception that, with the exception of the Central Government Departments that are mandated to use it, its adoption across the wider public sector is still patchy. In an article published on Diginomica, Derek du Preez identifies that ‘old habits dying hard’ is an issue which continues to generate hesitation. The anxiety surrounding this is chiefly due to a lack of buyer and supplier understanding. Put simply, a lack of easily accessible, cohesive and comprehensive information on G-Cloud, the application process and its benefits.
This series of mini-guides is designed to combat this anxiety by addressing the lack.
What is G-Cloud?
In answer to this question, one could cite endless business lingo, with mention of ‘frameworks’, ‘infrastructure’ and ‘iterations’, without ever directly addressing the reason for G-Cloud’s existence. In the name of yielding better understanding, it would be more appropriate to ask not what is G-Cloud, but why is G-Cloud? You will be relieved to know that the answer is perfectly simple. G-Cloud was founded for the purpose of streamlining the public procurement process for buyers and suppliers alike.
In the Cabinet Office’s review on Accelerating Government Procurement, they identified that there is excessive waste built into the existing traditional procurement process from inception through to award. This includes: excessive amounts of guidance with too much variation, duplication and confusion over different terms; elongated timescales both pre-OJEU and during the procurement; serial-processing, inefficient engagement with suppliers; input-based specifications vs. outcomes and risk aversion.
At this point, any readers with experience bidding for a contract will be nodding their assent.
In contrast, according to some sources the experienced G-Cloud buyer and supplier can complete the entire procurement process in just 24 hours. In light of this, G-Cloud has been a revolutionary step in procurement innovation.
“In terms of speed, we’ve found that G-Cloud is a quicker, more efficient route to market than buying from any other framework.”
- Andrew McHattie, Procurement Lead, IT Modernisation Programme at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency
Through the G-Cloud, the public sector is able to buy digital cloud-based services ‘off-the-shelf’ in what is often referred to as a pay-as-you-go approach. This avoids lock-ins to expensive contracts and facilitates innovation, flexibility, as well as time and cost-effectiveness.
The benefits of G-Cloud include:
- It is quicker and cheaper to use than traditional procurement processes.
- G-Cloud is re-tendered regularly, so it is always up to date with the latest suppliers, services and information.
- It is easy to register and apply to participate in the G-Cloud framework.
- There are no hidden charges; prices, terms and services are transparent.
- Many services are often available to try at no cost.
- There is a bigger range of suppliers than any other framework
- Buyers can contact suppliers directly with any questions or information requests.
- There is no ‘lock-in’ – all services state up-front how you get in and out.
- The G-Cloud eradicates the need for contract negotiations, an OJEU or ITT.
- With G-Cloud, SMEs can compete with larger companies on a level playing field.
“The benefits of using the Digital Marketplace included being able to offer a faster solution for both our buyers and suppliers. In the past, our buyers and suppliers have commented that traditional procurement methods are slow and expensive.”
- Neil Higson, Dstl R-Cloud Project Manager at the Ministry of Defence
Moreover, since its inception G-Cloud has generated sales of over £2.8bn, 48% of which was awarded to SMEs, which demonstrates that G-Cloud can be a valuable resource across the board, for suppliers of varying sizes.
The G-Cloud is expected to open for new suppliers to register their services and apply in April. You can keep up-to-date with the latest news from the Digital Market Place team or just drop us a line and we will let you know what you have to do and when.
We have, until recently, been collocated with Westminster City Council, a few yards from the Capita head office and a stone’s throw away from the Cabinet Office and multiple other Government Ministries. It was a great location and one that enabled us to regularly meet with our clients whilst they were in the area.
However, as Westminster City Hall is being closed for refurbishment we have taken the opportunity to expand, moving into a larger office directly opposite Waterloo station.
Our new address is:
109-117 Waterloo Road
London SE1 8UL
Telephone: 0207 960 2801
Some of the team – especially Stan, Sally, Nick and Kevin will continue to operate mostly from their home offices but the new space will create the opportunity for some of the team to get together regularly and to collaborate and work as a team to help our clients win even more business.
Office space in London is expensive and we are recruiting at the moment so it’s going to get very cosy when we move one more desk and person into the office but we all get on very well so I’m sure that we will manage.
All clients old and new, please give us a call and come by for coffee, as you can see, we have a lovely (shared) lounge space that we can use. We’d love to see you!