Framework Procurement Guide for Public Sector Suppliers

Frameworks

We explore what frameworks and DPSs entail, the evolving procurement regulations, and most importantly, how you can successfully navigate this landscape to win business. Whether you are a seasoned supplier or an aspiring newcomer, this guide provides invaluable insights into preparing, applying, and thriving within the world of public sector procurement.

Background

Frameworks and Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPSs) (a special form for framework) enable buyers to engage with pre-approved lists of suppliers using pre-agreed contract terms, conditions, and pricing.  They are increasingly popular in the public sector as they make buying quicker and less arduous than an open competition. Using this approach, business is awarded either through further competition, by establishing prices/specifications for each subsequent contract opportunity, or via direct award, if, for example, the purchase is from a published catalogue or if the supplier has a unique ability to supply.

Consequently, in the past five years, spending through Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS’s) frameworks have doubled, reaching more than £27.6bn in 2021/22. Frameworks such as the Management Consultancy Framework (MCF) have seen tremendous growth, from 34 suppliers in its first iteration in 2017 to over 170 suppliers in its current iteration; equating to approximately 400% growth in uptake.

Crown Commercial Service (CCS) delivers policy, advice, and direct buying services for government. They operate a large portfolio of frameworks, DPSs and catalogues on behalf of the Cabinet Office, available for all public sector buyers. Currently, CCS has over 100 live framework and DPS agreements with a further 30 likely to be tendered soon.

However, CCS are not the only provider of frameworks and there are hundreds of others which may have one or more of the following features:

  • Supplying to meet very specific requirements for which a CCS framework does not exist.
  • Operated by public sector bodies, such as the National Health Service (NHS), Local Authorities, and other central Government departments, such as the Ministry of Defence (MOD), who would prefer to be able to reach out their own group of preferred suppliers, using their own defined terms and conditions.
  • Operated by several local authorities who collaborate or other non-central quasi organisations.
  • Operated by procurement hubs.

Many of these frameworks overlap and a public sector buyer can choose from several different routes. Indeed, over the last 5 years there has been a proliferation of frameworks and the growth in their numbers continues.

New Developments

The Procurement Bill will see major changes to frameworks from 2024, with the four existing sets of regulations, (i) Public Contracts Regulations 2015, (ii) Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016, (iii) Concession Contracts Regulations 2016, and (iv) Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011, all being replaced by a single regulatory framework. This will help simplify procurements, reduce bureaucracy, and help create a fairer system. Additional changes will also be seen, such as the new Register of Suppliers (ROS) service, requiring suppliers tendering for Government contracts to only provide their core credentials / SQs once, or be able to re-use large parts of them. Important changes to frameworks are planned too, allowing supplier entry after initial award.

So What?

Frameworks are therefore an important route when selling into the Public Sector and it is essential for you to be listed on those used by the public sector bodies you wish to sell to. It is also important to set-up an on-going process for finding and applying to framework opportunities, or risk being cut off for typically 4 years before a desired framework is re-competed. It’s unclear yet as to how the new Procurement regime will allow for possible re-opening of frameworks during their lifetime.

It can be a burdensome process to find, prepare, apply, and engage with frameworks, especially for SME providers.  However, they should be thought of as approved supplier lists, not guarantees to win work, so it’s important to get the balance right between this and other business winning activity.

Where to find Frameworks and Dynamic Purchasing Systems?

The CCS Pipeline, is used by the majority of central Government commercial function to find frameworks. Most of these are advertised on the Find-A-Tender service. Regional portals in use at Wales (Sell2Wales), Scotland (Public Contracts Scotland) and Northern Ireland (eTendersNI) provide access to regionally specific frameworks.

Framespan is a portal which aggregates all frameworks into a central site and is increasingly used by buyers to find appropriate procurement routes.   We believe this will be an effective means for sellers to advertise their services as all suppliers are listed on the site and supplier information can be updated.

There are wide variety of services which suppliers to government can use to find opportunities and frameworks, such as Stotles, Tussle, Contract Finder, Find a Tender, Bidstats, Tracker, Supply2Gov, Delta eSourcing, and more. Some of these are free to use for finding opportunities and frameworks with additional paid services to enable more detailed research into customers, contracts and the competition.

How to prepare

To successfully complete a framework application, there are common standards and requirements which you will need to meet. Consequently, it is important to prepare and be ready before the Contract Notice release date to ensure that these requirements can be completed in time.

Requirements generally include:

  • Three years of audited accounts to demonstrate a viable, going concern of sufficient scale to compete.They may also require e.g., a DUNS or Experian score and credit references, or a mix of financial ratios with pass marks.
  • Cyber Security accreditation which may be:
    • Cyber Essentials;
    • Cyber Essentials Plus; or
    • ISO 27001.
  • Insurance to cover for professional, product and employer liabilities.
  • Accreditations such as ISO 9001 (Quality Management System); ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System) and ISO 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety).
  • Social value strategy, policy, and commitments.
  • Carbon Reduction Plan.
  • Examples of prior, relevant work, including contact details for reference customers, past contract details and case studies. Typically, 3 are requested in relevant business fields, or a mini essay for new entrants to submit – this is also worth preparing in advance, if relevant.
  • Commitment to or evidence of sundry company policies which generally include data security, employment standards, supply chain management, carbon emissions, health and safety, equality and diversity and modern slavery.

Some requirements are policy obligations, dependent upon the level of business being procured.  For example Cabinet Office’s PPN06/21 states that the production of a Carbon Reduction Plan is only required if the total contract value for a supplier into a central government department exceeds £5m per annum.

Requirements vary between frameworks, depending on the work being procured, so it is important to plan and find out exactly what will be needed before you need to complete the application.  Fortunately, with the new procurement regulations, a higher degree of standardisation is now being introduced, so once you have completed one successfully, much of the preparatory work will be relevant to others. 

To establish a framework, the framework managers will typically set up market engagement events and the details for these will be advertised in the Prior Information Notices.   These provide an opportunity to ask questions on how the framework will be shaped, the requirements and other useful information which is helpful to know in advance of the notice publication date.  It is useful to attend these to raise your profile with the framework managers too and demonstrate your proactivity.

Once the notice for the framework has been published, you will typically need to complete 3 envelopes: 

  1. Selection Qualification (SQ) envelope;
  2. Technical Quality envelope; and
  3. Commercial envelope.

The standard selection questionnaire (SQ) will establish to the buyer that your organisation is suitable. Responses require details such as your company registration number, company name, persons with significant control and the D-U-N-S number, to shows financial reliability and stability. Additionally, there will be a set of exclusion grounds questions which are seen as the ‘non-negotiables’ for the provider. These typically ask if you have had previous experience of bankruptcy, breaches of laws, and allows the framework provider to exclude you from continuing.  The responses to the SQs tend to be in short format or through a tick box exercise as the buyer is only trying to assess your general suitability for the framework. However, with CCS’ new PPN 03/23 notice, include changes to the SQs  such as the introduction of details related health and safety, supply chain, reducing carbon emissions and updated payment questions.

CCS aims to deliver a new service called the ‘Register of Suppliers (ROS),’ which will allow suppliers to add and maintain their data so it can be used and re-used by contracting authorities for procurements. This service will be mandatory for suppliers who bid over the Public Sector procurement thresholds and is expected to go live in October 2024.

The technical envelope will ask specific quality questions in relation to the services/products likely to be delivered on the framework.

The commercial envelopes set out the price for goods & services allowing for the buying organisations to easily compare. However, they may not necessarily be used later, during further competition, as the pricing requirements may need to better reflect call-off specific requirements.

It is important to remember that being listed on a framework is not a guarantee of work as you will usually need to compete with other framework suppliers, unless you have a truly unique offering that only you can provide.

You should view a framework as route to market which you can offer when engaging potential customers.

Whilst frameworks offer huge opportunities to work with the Public Sector, there are many drawbacks involved, especially for SMEs when applying and satisfying routine reporting requirements.

Buyers use Frameworks as a default, or they should, to expedite buying. They will follow the guidance – so make sure you are familiar with it too.

To win more on frameworks, we recommend:

  • Pre-engaging with the buying organisations whenever possible;
  • Don’t be shy in advertising your presence on frameworks – you can help “lead” prospects to these routes, as they may not be aware or familiar with them;
  • Ensure you’re familiar with the Framework Guidance – so you know what Buyers will, or should, be doing to engage with framework suppliers;
  • Researching competitors to ensure a strong and compelling proposition that meets both quality and price requirements;
  • Establishing a bid/no-bid process to prevent resources being spent on opportunities that do not align with the business’s core competencies;
  • Allowing adequate time to respond; and
  • Creating a library of case studies which can be leveraged in bids.

It is also important to be aware of the quality-to-price ratio the buyer has set. This will determine how to structure the winning bid. Typically, frameworks use a ratio of 70:30, meaning that price is as important as innovation and added value.  A 60:40 ratio indicates that the decision will be largely based on price.  DPS’ ratios can vary significantly depending on the service/product being procured. Usually, if the buying organisation is purchasing an off-the-shelf product/service, such as a software license, then price will be the main determining factor. Therefore, understanding the ratio will provide suppliers with a better grasp of what is being procured.

How Augmentas Group can help

At Augmentas Group we have helped organisations in many sectors win opportunities from the UK Public Sector.  Our win rate is over 80%, for those that can compete and fully apply our processes.  This underpinned by our work within the Public Sector, helping the public sector to procure over £1bn on their behalf, providing us with a deep understanding of what makes a bid successful. Additionally, we have partnered with experts in Public Sector communications, social value strategy and tracking, and contract performance management.

We have established a 3-phased, managed framework service, assisting organisations to apply and leverage the opportunities available. The three phases include:

 

  1. Preparation: ensuring you can meet the relevant requirements, have good examples of relevant work, meet policy requirements, and are ready to apply.This includes establishing a framework management plan, identifying those which would be most beneficial and scheduling the necessary work.

  2. Delivery: assisting you to complete the three envelopes, with specific emphasis on the technical quality response; and

  3. Ongoing: supporting you to bid in relevant further-competitions.We have an established bid support process.

Find the best procurement & tender management solution for you

Fundamentally we do two things, we buy for the government, and we help others to sell to government. We have a strong blend of operational, commercial and sales experience within a team of experienced professionals, all of whom have proven success. We know what we are doing because we have done it many times before, having bought, sold and delivered £billions worth of services for and to government.

We help our valued clients win more work and achieve their business objectives.

With an excellent track record, we are confident in our approach. See our services.

Augmentas Group Logo

Join Our Newsletter

Subscribe to receive our latest updates in your inbox.