Calling all SMEs – 4 reasons to work in the public sector

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All this week, Tenders Direct is running an ‘SME week’ to raise awareness for smaller suppliers about the advantages of working in the public sector.

Tenders Direct shared 35,436 UK and Irish low value tender opportunities in 2016, so what are the benefits for SMEs to working in the public sector?

The value in the public sector

The UK public sector has opportunities for all sizes of suppliers: low value tenders can total up to £106,047 and high value tenders can be anything from the latter and into the millions.

See below four reasons why SMEs should consider work in the public sector:

  1. Public spend: In the fiscal year ending in 2017, total UK public spending is expected to be £784.1 billion* meaning there are many business opportunities to take advantage of.
  2. Prompt payment: according to new data from the CCS, public sector buyers aim to pay all invoices within 30 days, with the majority paid within five.
  3. UK Government targets: The government aims to award 25% of public procurement contracts to SMEs.**
  4. Value for money – government buyers have to be transparent with the taxpayer money and have to show how they have delivered this. SMEs won’t be compromised by a larger company if they have a better value proposition than them.

Where are the opportunities?

Tenders Direct can help you be more successful in the public sector by allowing you to spend less time looking, and more time bidding for work by delivering tender notifications right into your mailbox.

Bring home more contract wins

With a team of ex-bid writers and reviewers, Millstream Training and Consultancy have supplier training which can help accelerate your bid response from good to great. Our introductory and advanced courses are continually updated to reflect any changes in procurement legislation, not to mention trends which buyers are looking out for. Visit our website to find out more about the training we offer.

With UK government targets, prompt payment, low value tender opportunities and tendering training for SMEs to take advantage of, SMEs are welcome in the public sector: there is a lucrative source of business opportunities waiting for smaller suppliers over on Tenders Direct.

* ukpublicspending.co.uk

** National Audit Office 2016

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Procurement in the 2017 Manifestos – The Facts

With recent global, politically disruptive events such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, there were  already enough question marks floating around about what it would all mean for UK public sector procurement.

So now with the added and unexpected complexity of the 2017 General Election in just one week’s time, procurement professionals and suppliers msurvey-2316468_1280ay be wondering what changes procurement may face  12 months down the line.

At Millstream, we have taken a look at each of the main party’s manifestos to see what mention there is of procurement, and also if there are any major policies that might impact the sector.  NOTE: Text in italics is lifted directly from the manifestos.

Conservative

Labour

Lib Dem

PC

SNP

UKIP.png

So there you have it – Labour and UKIP have produced definitive actions regarding procurement which would have significant impacts on how the public sector procure goods, services and works. The other parties, focusing their messages on encouraging SMEs and localised spend.

Whatever your choice on 8th June, it is good to know how your vote might influence your job or your business.

 

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References/links to Manifestos:

Conservative Party Manifesto

Labour Party Manifesto

Liberal  Democrat Manifesto

Plaid Cymru Manifesto

SNP Manifesto

UKIP Manifesto

Passive Housing by 2020

building-419204_1920Passive Housing or ‘Passivhaus’ is a building standard that is energy efficient, comfortable, affordable and ecological at the same time.

For buyers and suppliers in the construction industry, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive was revised in May 2010 and called for all EU member states to require all new builds to be ‘nearly zero energy’ by the 31st December 2020.

What is passive housing?

Passive House characteristics:

  • Passive Houses allow for heating and cooling related energy savings
  • Structurally composed of: timber frames, being stone or concrete framed
  • Low primary energy use in kWh/m2 per year
  • Saving on water consumption
  • Having a ventilation system consistently supplies fresh air
  • Appropriate windows with good insulation

How can you get involved?

So with this legislation on the horizon for 2020, what has Tenders Direct shared for supplier opportunities?

South Dublin County Council are tendering for the Design and delivery of a sustainable integrated mixed tenure housing development in Kilcarbery, Dublin in line with the Kilcarbery Grange Preliminary Masterplan. This development has a capacity for 892 passive housing units.

This Prior Information Notice (PIN) for Housing Management Services lets us know The London Borough of Lambeth is preparing a tender for a scheme of 70 affordable homes. The contract notice will be advertised in the coming months for housing which will abide by the passive house legislation.

In Cardiff, the construction of four adaptive houses and seven bungalows is being tendered for. The properties, under the name of the ‘Holm View New Build’ scheme, will be built in line with the passive housing regulation.

Where are the opportunities?

If you are a construction supplier looking for new business, the ‘Passive House’ is the fastest growing energy performance standard in the world. With 30,000 buildings with this sanction to date, Tenders Direct will be sharing further tender notices as passive housing continues to grow.

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Meeting social value criteria: 5 Steps

Social Value

The Social Value Act came out as legislation from 2012 and has recently hit the headlines again via the Crown Commercial Service.

The act concerns the benefits you, as a supplier, can bring to a public sector contract to improve the local area you are working in. This can be in many different forms such as providing apprenticeships, working on charitable projects or supporting local enterprise development.

From now on, social value is now becoming a weighted part of the evaluation criteria in tendering: what was originally 60% price and 40% quality will more than likely now be moving to 50% price 40% quality and 10% on social value. In fact social value might make up to 20% of the evaluation criteria as has been noted in the strategic approach of local councils such as Knowsley and Manchester.

Suppliers will also have to effectively manage and monitor their social value activity to prove the promises listed in their tender documents come to fruition.

How do you prepare for social value evaluation?

  1. Understand the concept: Some suppliers fall into the trap of thinking they can shoehorn their existing environmental and sustainability actions to fit and this will rarely prove effective. Read these examples from the Crown Commercial Service to gain an insight into social value in practice
  2. Engage with your key buyers: Ask direct questions pre-procurement such as ‘What are your important areas of work in social value?’ You might find synergies between buyers and your company ethos.
  3. Look at your work: Sometimes suppliers may be fulfilling the social value criteria but don’t record it or recognise it. For example: Do you employ locally? Support local suppliers in the supply chain? Offer apprenticeships? Do any community or charity work?
  4. Look at gaps and practicalities of implementing new processes: Suppliers need to fill in any gaps they have in social value activities. But, think through the implications of any additional social value measures you might want to put in place. For example, offering apprenticeships will affect your HR team, line managers and the wage bill.
  5. Document it: Your social value activities are only as valuable as your ability to prove you have done them and that they have been effective. You need to have case studies, data and statistics to quote in your tenders to demonstrate that you have done what you said you would and that it has made a positive impact socially.

 

Here are some additional sources of info on The Social Value Act:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/social-value-act-information-and-resources/social-value-act-information-and-resources

http://inspiringimpact.org/

https://socialvalueportal.com/social-value-taskforce/

http://www.socialvaluehub.org.uk/

If you require any further support or guidance leave us a comment or get in touch 01224 650 772 or email gemma@millstream.eu

High Speed 2 – A whole fleet of opportunities

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Unless you have been living under a railway bridge for the last 10 years, you will know that in 2010 the UK Government approved the plan to create High Speed 2 (HS2): a high speed railway from London to Manchester/Leeds.

Off the rails? Most definitely on. HS2 will shrink the travel time for many commuters and travellers between the cities in the Midlands and London, and for freight by improving lead times on deliveries, that in turn improves customer satisfaction (railtechnologymagazine.com).

HS2 will be one of the most ambitious projects undertaken in this country in recent years. The venture will create tens of thousands of jobs and generate billions of pounds worth of contract opportunities for suppliers in many fields. With 2026 the deadline date for HS2, what have we seen so far in terms of opportunities?

A tender has just been published looking for a supplier to provide them with 54 new high-speed trains along with maintenance, servicing and refurbishment for an initial 12-year period.  This tender is worth £2.75 billion and has the option to be extended for the entire design life of the trains. Continue reading “High Speed 2 – A whole fleet of opportunities”

Accepting Electronic Submissions – what does it mean for buyers?

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From the 18th of April 2017, all Central Purchasing Bodies (CPB) will only be permitted to accept electronic submissions to procurement exercises. By September 2018 this requirement will be extended to all public contracting authorities. Whichever type of buying organisation you are, you’ll need to be aware of what this means.

What is a CPB?

This is defined as a contracting authority that acquires goods or services intended for one or more contracting authorities (“buyers”). Examples of CPBs include The Crown Commercial Service, The Scottish Government and APUC (Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges) as they procure on behalf of multiple contracting authorities.

What counts as an electronic submission?

Regulation 22 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 tell us what we need to know. The main thing to clarify is this – e-mails do not count as electronic submission. Electronic submissions must use a tool where the exact time and date of submission is provided. In addition to this, only authorised persons can access the data and therefore no one has access to the data transmitted prior to the deadline.  Electronic submissions must also include a tool to clearly detect infringement or any attempt of infringement of the access prohibitions.

There are a number of benefits to electronic submissions for both the buyer and the supplier:

  • Everything is automatically time-stamped and fully auditable
  • Reduced costs
  • Reduced impact on the environment
  • Quicker and more streamlined process on both sides of the procurement

So what does this mean for buyers?

Moving on to an e-procurement portal would benefit all buyers as it allows them to run procurement processes in compliance with the EU Directive and UK Regulations on Public Procurement by:

  • Attaching documents to their tenders
  • Allow the submission of tender documents
  • Allow one-to-one interaction with the suppliers

Want to find out more?

If you are a contracting authority, myTenders PRO is the ‘go to’ e-procurement portal for publishing contract notices. Our portal can facilitate electronic submissions to make sure you are compliant with these new regulations, and those that will come into place for all buyers in the future.

Call us on 0844 561 0670 or visit our website to find out more.

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Developing a bid strategy in a challenging marketplace

Strat Blog

Set your own strategy – be proactive not reactive when tendering.

 

Recently, Millstream highlighted the strength of Virgin’s approach to business development in our article featured on Energy Voice’s website. Virgin have championed diversification across sectors to generate more business opportunities: taking people to space, running the railways and providing healthcare services are just a few examples of Virgins product range.

This approach to business has resulted in staggering financial rewards for Virgin and other companies who are able to operate as primes in the prime/sub model.

The prime/sub model is when a large contractor wins the tender and are the prime contractor to the buying authority, they subcontract out elements of the tender to other suppliers, usually locally based SMEs.

So what impact does the prime/sub model have on SMES?

We all know there has been a massive drive from the government to support SMEs to benefit from the wealth of opportunities in the public sector.

This has been seen through their commitment to spend 33% of central government money with SMEs and also through the changes to the selection criteria in 2016 making it easier for SMEs to bid.

The question is – when huge prime contractors are winning huge contracts and replacing existing smaller providers, how is the government’s agenda being achieved?

The answer is it usually isn’t: when a prime contractor wins a public sector contract they are ultimately responsible for delivery and are looking to make profit. This often has a negative impact on the finances for SMEs as the prime contractor seeks to find efficiencies and cost savings through the supply chain to increase their own profit.

When a supplier is faced with the potential of the prime/sub model taking up a chunk of their business or taking away a business critical tender, many SMEs may feel they have no option but to join the supply chain if they are to survive.

However, that might not be their only option to succeed! Facing your Goliath means you have to find your inner David and seek out a new way to do business.

So what is the answer?

The answer is simple – have a strategy in place. Nothing stays the same in business and this is the next big challenge smaller providers are facing. There are a number of proactive steps suppliers can take to ready themselves for any impending changes:

  • Pre- Engage with the Contracting Authorities – in these situations waiting for the tender is too late. The only way suppliers can influence hearts and minds is to engage in advance of the tender being released. Use Tenders Direct to search for contract award notices (CANs) to find out when a contract is due to end, or to gain contact details from key buyers. You can also keep an eye out for prior information notices (PINS) which notify you of a future procurement exercise and give you plenty of time to pre-engage with the contracting authorities.

 

  • Form a consortium – rather than get swallowed up into the jaws of a prime contractor, suppliers can meet with other local providers to see if they can form a consortium or a special purpose vehicle and bid together. These groups of suppliers can then trade on their established infrastructure and wealth of experience and be able to trade on their own terms.

 

  • Join the team – some may relish the prospect of joining a supply chain. Suppliers will lose a lot of responsibility and liability when it isn’t their name on the contract, and some may prefer to operate with a lower steak in the contract with less risk rather than nothing at all.

 

These potential strategies translate across industries and sectors. Millstream meet with suppliers every day and as a qualified bid manager, I am constantly surprised how many do not have a documented and thought out bidding strategy.

I encourage suppliers to be proactive and take control of their destiny.

Working in the public sector can offer suppliers long term, well-paying business opportunities, and these deserve just as much time and attention as an internal strategy.

If you want to analyse your own bidding strategy or even create one from scratch, you should join our half day Success Simplified courses in London and Manchester and make sure you are deciding on your business’s future and not leaving it in the past.

Brexit: A “historic moment from which there can be no turning back” – but what does it mean for public procurement?

eu-1473958_1920After the referendum result last June and the resulting legal challenges, parliamentary debates, votes and royal assent (not to mention the debates down at the pub and on social media) Prime Minister Theresa May has finally triggered Article 50 notifying the European Council of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU. Whichever side of the debate you found yourself on one thing is now clear – the UK is leaving the EU and that is likely to have a huge impact for us all.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the PM’s letter to the European Council triggering Article 50 made no specific reference to public sector procurement – it’s unlikely to be at the top of any agenda – but point v.i. of her “suggested principle” for the negotiation deals with trade.

If any major change is to come in relation to public procurement it will be as a result on the outcome of the negotiations relating to trade between the EU and the UK. It is important to note that at present and until the negotiations are complete and the UK leaves the EU, the procurement regulations will remain the same. The European Council’s Directive on Public Procurement has been transposed into UK and Scottish law by the current Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and Public Contracts Regulations (Scotland) 2015 respectively. After exiting the EU, the UK will have the option of amending or replacing these regulations but it seems unlikely that they will change drastically.

All EU member states have roughly the same ambitions when it comes to public sector procurement – openness, transparency, fairness, VfM, increasing access for SMEs – and therefore the current regulations were designed with these in mind.

If you were hoping for a removal of perceived EU “red tape” in public sector tendering I believe you’ll be disappointed. Indeed, you may instead experience some “red, white and blue tape” as the UK lawmakers amend the relevant regulations whilst ensuring that all the principles of good public procurement processes remain in place.

If the UK is to become part of the European Economic Area, a status held by the non-EU countries of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein then very little is likely to change. The EEA countries are bound by their membership agreement to follow the principles of EU public procurement and all three countries advertise their above threshold procurement requirements in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

Even if the UK does not join the EEA, it is still a signatory of the World Trade Organisation’s Government Procurement Agreement, which imposes the principles and practices of fair procurement on all its members. The public sector will still need to purchase what it does today and will need to advertise it openly. This may just mean that the opportunities are advertised on national platforms rather than in the OJEU. Either way you can be sure that Tenders Direct will be picking them all up and distributing relevant opportunities to our members!

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Making your own luck

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We’re all familiar with the various thematic clichés associated with St Patrick’s Day celebrations: leprechauns, pots of gold, four-leafed clovers and good luck. But did you know that the phrase “luck of the Irish” does not necessarily refer to the good variety?

Continue reading “Making your own luck”

The tender matchmaker…

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It’s Valentine’s Day. That time of year when people pay attention to the special connections they have in life and take a bit of time to celebrate them. Or maybe you are still looking for some special connections? Still searching for that one relationship with long term potential, stability and plenty of money…

Of course, here we’re talking about your business connections – specifically your connections with public sector buyers and tendering. With contract life spans of three years plus, 30 day payment terms and a high chance of you retaining a contract once you’ve won it once – what’s not to love? Continue reading “The tender matchmaker…”

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