Framework Agreements: What You Need to Know

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What are framework agreements?

Frameworks are “umbrella agreements” that sets out the terms – particularly relating to price, quality and quantity – under which individual contracts (call-offs) can be awarded throughout the period of the agreement (normally a maximum of 4 years). They are typically used when the buyer(s) identify a need for specific products or services but are unsure of the scope or timeframe.

Do they need to be advertised in the OJEU?

In line with public procurement legislation. if a framework agreement is publicly funded and the estimated total value of all the potential call-offs exceeds the relevant EU procurement threshold then it should be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

Who can use them?

Any organisation subject to EU public procurement regulations can publish a framework agreement. Many are published either on behalf of multiple buyers or left open for use by some or all public sector organisations.

How do I secure a place on one?

  • Notices announcing framework agreements are published in the same manner as standard invitations to tender
  • Suppliers wishing to participate must register interest using the details provided on the notice and will be awarded a place subject to their ability to satisfy selection criteria
  • Only those suppliers who respond to the original notice and are selected will be eligible to participate in any call-offs made under the framework

How are call-offs awarded?

If the framework agreement is awarded to only one supplier, the buyer can simply call-off a requirement from them as and when they wish. If the framework is awarded to several suppliers, there are two ways in which call-offs can be conducted:

  • If the terms laid out in the framework agreement are detailed enough for the buyer to identify the best supplier for a particular requirement, they can directly award a contract
  • If the buyer is unable to identify which supplier could offer them best value for money for a particular requirement, a mini-competition can be held between all the approved suppliers

What are the advantages?

For Suppliers

  • Possibility of being awarded multiple contracts
  • Reduction in administrative burden due to streamlined procedure
  • Chance to build lasting working relationships with multiple buyers

For Buyers

  • Less downtime between identifying a need and fulfilling it
  • Reduction in administrative costs with removal of OJEU process for every requirement
  • Potential savings with economies of scale – suppliers may offer more competitive prices

What are the disadvantages?

For Suppliers

  • No guarantee of business even if you’re selected as an approved supplier
  • Suppliers unsuccessful at the selection stage are locked out of any call-offs for the duration of the agreement

For Buyers

  • Frameworks are unresponsive to change. There may be new suppliers and/or new solutions within the market that were not included when the agreement was initially set up
  • They apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach, which may make it difficult for buyers to satisfy their own procurement objectives

 

If you found this blog helpful but want to know more, you can join our free webinar on Thursday 30th August 1pm – 2pm which covers Framework Agreements and Dynamic Purchasing Systems. You can also view a recording of the previous session.

Questions? Feel free to leave a comment, call us on 0800 222 9009, or visit www.tendersdirect.co.uk

 

A Closer Look: The Solution

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If you’ve read the two previous blogs in this series – The Challenge and The Fix – you’ll understand the problem suppliers face in sourcing suitable public contracts and the mechanics of the Tenders Direct solution. In the final part, we look at how we help our customers complete the journey from finding a promising contract to winning it…

Continue reading “A Closer Look: The Solution”

A Closer Look: The Fix

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In our last blog we outlined the challenge faced by suppliers when attempting to find suitable public sector contracts. Missing out on just one opportunity – particularly a framework agreement which can encompass many invitations to tender – is a nightmare scenario for any company. In this post we focus on how Tenders Direct prevents lucrative public work from passing our customers by.

Continue reading “A Closer Look: The Fix”

A Closer Look: The Challenge

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All businesses exist to overcome some sort of challenge on behalf of their clients. At Tenders Direct, we specialise in helping suppliers find – and win – public sector contracts. But aren’t public contract notices in the public domain? Surely this information is easy to find? Well, much like a needle in a haystack, relevant tenders for your business are out there but locating them is another matter.

Continue reading “A Closer Look: The Challenge”

Update: Revised Public Sector Contract

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The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has announced a new version of the public sector contract with revised terms and conditions designed to make public work more accessible to smaller companies. Crown Representative for Small Business Emma Jones was quoted as saying:

The new CCS contract is shorter and easier to understand and takes a more standardised approach. This should save SMEs time and money when deciding to bid for CCS deals and I welcome the approach.”

Likewise, the view from Tenders Direct is that this – along with any other initiative to minimise the complexity of public contracting – is a step in the right direction. One of the more common pieces of feedback we receive from SMEs is that they find the administrative burden involved in bidding for public contracts challenging and often feel dissuaded from tendering at all.

Our Head of Training and Consultancy Gemma Waring elaborates on why this is a positive development for smaller suppliers:

“Many SMEs simply don’t have the time, resources, or knowledge to fully digest and understand complex terms and conditions, which puts them in danger of signing up to liabilities, penalties, and requirements they cannot meet in practice. The new T&Cs will allow suppliers to develop a fuller and lasting understanding of their obligations without having to review and challenge different sets in each tendering exercise. All the time and effort saved can be more usefully applied to formulating successful bids.”

If you have any questions about this or any other aspect of public sector tendering let us know in the comments below!

Case Study: Bridgeway Consulting Ltd

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Bridgeway receives The Queen‘s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development – 2017

In this case study we speak to Business Development Specialist Tom Foster to find out more about Bridgeway Consulting Ltd and their experience of using Tenders Direct.

Background

Formed in 1995, Bridgeway Consulting Ltd provide a multi-disciplinary portfolio of engineering services with extensive experience working on small, medium and large projects across the UK and internationally. Priding themselves on an exemplary safety record and acknowledging that safety, productivity and business performance go hand in hand, their company ethos is “the 3(E)S”: Exceeding, Expectations, Everywhere, Safely.

Services

  • Structural Examinations (including confined spaces, rope access and diving)
  • Infrastructure Services (including Signalling, Design and PWay)
  • Geomatics (including BIM, Monitoring, Topographical Surveys, Aerial Surveys, Utility Detection and CCTV Surveys)
  • Site and Ground Investigation (including Slope Drilling and Ecology)
  • Railway Track Access (Possessions, AC/DC Isolations)
  • Railway Training and Assessment, HSQE & Assurance Services.

Recent awards

  • The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Sustainable Development – 2017
  • London Stock Exchange Top 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain – 2016 & 2017
  • Nottinghamshire’s Top 200 Companies – 2016 & 2017

Q&A

Bridgeway has become a leading contractor since it was founded in 1995. In terms of your business strategy, what has contributed to this growth?

Offering high quality services and ensuring that we have a diverse client base has been key. We are principle contractors for Network Rail so much of our work comes via their supply chain, but we also work with a wide variety of other clients including local authorities such as councils in Durham, Bradford, Rotherham, Lancashire, and Nottingham to name a few.

As a company we put a premium on safety, quality, community, and sustainability. This approach has put us in a strong position when bidding for new work and helped us develop long lasting relationships with clients. With changes in our industry over the years, we’ve also learned to be ready to re-invent ourselves and adjust our focus if need be.

How did you find relevant public contracts before you subscribed to Tenders Direct?

We were registered with various free websites like Sell2Wales and Public Contracts Scotland. We’d regularly monitor around five or six main websites, but we found that we’d often be duplicating the information. With so many different sources, we were also concerned that we may have been missing out on opportunities.

Tender notices that we picked up from these sources were often displayed in different formats which made things that bit more difficult. A great deal of effort had to go into giving ourselves full coverage, so we’ve cut out a lot of admin and saved a great deal of time since we subscribed.

Is business development more straightforward since you subscribed?

It’s more streamlined now that all our public sector leads are pulled into one place and displayed in the same format. We provide 20 different services so making sure we have full visibility of relevant opportunities in any given region is very important.

The way our alert profile works is an advantage, with separate keyword categories relating to each of our services and the ability to filter the notices by service and region. Numerous team members have access to the platform, so having a dedicated account manager responsible for updating our settings prevents changes being made to our coverage without being authorised by the named administrator.

What advice would you give to companies trying to win their first public contract?

Try to establish where you sit in the market and take the time to understand the structure and processes involved. Don’t take a scattershot approach to which contracts you bid for. There’s no point investing large amounts of time and resources in a bid when the odds are stacked against you, so don’t just dive in. Select your targets carefully and make sure you’re offering a high quality service, not just a cheap one.

Upcoming Free Webinars

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Looking to learn but too pushed for time? With our free webinars you can join us on your lunch break or watch previous recordings at your leisure. Lasting no longer than an hour, we cover a variety of topics relevant to suppliers. Our next live sessions explore different types of tenders, why they are important, and how to find and win them.

 

Finding and Winning Low Value Tenders – Tuesday 17th July 1.00pm – 1.45pm

Low value tenders can be of huge value to suppliers of any size, but are not subject to the full raft of regulatory requirements and can be difficult to find. This webinar provides:

  • An explanation of what low value tenders are
  • Advice on why they are useful for suppliers
  • An explanation of how to access them
  • An outline of what rules and regulations govern low value tenders

Book your place!

 

Frameworks and DPS – Wednesday 18th July 1.00pm – 2pm

The use of Frameworks and Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) is on the rise, but many suppliers are unsure of exactly what they are and how they work. This webinar provides:

  • A description of what a framework is and how it operates
  • A description of a DPS and how it differs from a framework
  • An explanation of how to find these opportunities
  • Examples of ‘call-off’ mini competitions from frameworks and DPS

Book your place!

 

View details of our full day training courses

Simple Strategies for Success: Take the Initiative

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In his poem Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day, Delmore Schwartz observed that “Time is the fire in which we burn”. Anyone familiar with tender submissions will probably have sympathy with this sentiment. After finding a promising contract, it can be quite a struggle to prepare a bid within a limited time-frame while staying on top of existing commitments.

Many suppliers tell us that racing to meet tight deadlines while wading through piles of bid documents only to be rebuffed after all their efforts makes them less inclined to bother bidding at all. This kind of “reactive tendering” can be both exhausting and futile, so what can you do differently?

Try giving yourself a head start by scoping out your targets in advance. Is there a particular buyer you’d like to contract for? If you can build even the most modest relationship with them you can gain useful intelligence about their specific needs and procurement strategy. When they go out to tender, this can help you make your bid as bespoke as possible.

Is there an existing contract that you missed out on or are now in a position to go for? If you establish when it is due for renewal and start your preparations months ahead, you’ll have much more time to perfect your pitch without feeling pressurised. This will leave competitors who only became aware of it when the tender notice was published rushing around while you calmly put the finishing touches on your submission.

Explore our free resources for suppliers

Learn how Advance Tender Alerts can give you a head start

Simple Strategies for Success: Knowledge is Power

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Most of us are familiar with this quote widely attributed to Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” It transpires that there is no record of Mr Einstein saying this, but there is truth to it regardless.

Suppliers struggling to win public contracts should keep this maxim in mind when considering their next move. If your bid has been knocked back, it is crucial that you find out why and take corrective action. Where did you fall down? What were you unaware of? How can you improve?

We find that one of the more common missteps made by aspiring contractors after unsuccessful bids is failing to seek as much feedback as possible from buyers and not conducting a detailed assessment of what they could have done better. Instead of allowing your efforts to be wasted, why not use them to your advantage?

Once a contract is awarded, suppliers are entitled to feedback from buyers including a breakdown of their scores and the characteristics and advantages of the winning bid. Conducting a thorough review of your submission with the information available can provide a wealth of applicable knowledge about your strengths and weaknesses.

Persisting with the same stale strategy may not be insanity, but it is certainly not sensible. If you learn lessons, hone your skills, and adjust your approach, you’ll be a much more powerful presence in the next competition.

Click here to explore our free resources for suppliers

Click here to learn about our bid review service

Simple Strategies for Success: Be Pragmatic

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One of the most common pieces of feedback we receive from subscribers trying to win their first public contract is that they are tired of being knocked back from promising opportunities, with many minded to give up entirely and focus their efforts exclusively on the private sector.

This is entirely understandable when time and resources are minimal and the workload involved in bidding so substantial, but companies in any industry need diverse revenue streams in order to prosper and grow. Winning your first tender is not so much about the here and now, but about the future: once you have your foot in the door, many more opportunities will open up to you.

In our experience, it pays to be pragmatic when selecting your target. Larger contracts are unlikely to be awarded to a supplier with no previous public sector experience, so below-threshold procurements should be your focus; they may not be worth millions, but winning just one can prove to be a vital stepping stone for any company aspiring to win large government contracts.

In other words, don’t try to run before you can walk. Be selective about your bids and focus on winning one of the more modest contracts in order to give yourself the best chance of success. Your first win allows you to demonstrate your capabilities and gain vital references, which will be invaluable when making your pitch for a larger and more lucrative contract.

Click here to explore our free resources for suppliers

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