ICT contracts are often perceived as problematic and many organisations think they are different from any other category. They are not, they simply require good planning, a clear understanding of what is required and a good team effort built around strong people relationships and communication. Thurrock Council recently went to market for a new housing management system provided as a managed service and put the team approach to the test.
Thurrock Council took a commercial decision to seek a replacement IT system to help it manage its housing stock, including rents; repairs; tenancy management; allocations and lettings and its asset register. It wanted a new, fully managed, IT system that:
- was fixed price and within in its agreed budget
- was procured under the Council’s terms and conditions of business, fully compliant with the Council’s standing orders within a four month window
- offered modern and proven technology which was capable of delivering an attractive ROI measured against its outcome based operational requirement
The Project Sponsor and Strategic Housing Lead, Dermot Moloney, realised that to meet this challenge he needed to create a strong multi-disciplinary team and build strong relationships with the various internal stakeholders whose active support and involvement was critical and sought help from the East of England LGA Talent Bank.
Dermot set about building his project team. He introduced:
- East of England LGA Talent Bank associate, Ken Cole, from SPS Consultancy Services, with a specialist knowledge of ICT commission and procurement to ensure all routes to market were explored.
- David Mynors, a proven Project Manager, to oversee the acquisition and implementation process to give continuity and stability.
- He also approached the Council’s Head of Procurement Services, Debbie White, at an early stage to ensure that resources were made available to work with the team and deliver full compliance with the EU Public Procurement Directives.
The project tendering and contract phase had to be delivered in less than six months. An outcome based specification needed to be produced and an appropriate route to market chosen. The market for this type of solution is very limited so it was important to choose the right procurement route so as to maximise competition.
David and Ken produced the specification working closely with a wide range of systems users. They moved away from the standard functional based assessment to seeking written answers as to how the bidder solution would contribute to matters such as return on investment, digital enablement, development pathway and cost reduction. David Mynors said:
"We worked to get operational users, managers and technical staff from Serco (the Council’s ICT provider) working to a common agenda. We were determined to avoid just judging solutions on traditional functional basis."
Debbie evaluated the different contract routes to market and ensured all aspects of compliance were in place while Ken produced a set of ICT terms and conditions for the contract.
The team were restricted on using any of the current framework contracts as they either constrained market choice or placed restrictions on the scope of our requirement. Dermot commented:
"Although framework contracts can be an ideal way to proceed, for many service areas they can restrict competition or restrict future business options. Either way we placed our OJEU notice and went through the EU Open Procedure which proved a wise move."
Four bids were received from the market all of which addressed our operational requirement well. One subsequently withdrew from the process which allowed the Council to evaluate three through open interviews and presentations. These one day sessions were structured by David and comprised a morning walk through of each bid and an afternoon question and answer session for potential users.
The interviews confirmed the earlier evaluations while allowing each bidder to learn more about the Council and its business and technical goals. A contract was awarded to Northgate Solutions.
Dermot Moloney was delighted with the way the whole process was conducted and the insight that it offered.
This was a great team effort involving different business functions all working to a common agenda and working as a team. We got cooperation and support from everyone involved and it also showed the value of producing a specification and getting procurement support at an early stage.
David Mynors was also pleased with the outcomes:
"any people regard ICT contracts as problematic. This is not the case if you plan ahead, are clear about what you want, involve all stakeholders at the outset and communicate with potential suppliers. A team effort always delivers the right outcomes."
For more information, please contact:
Ken Cole, Director of Projects and Practice, SPS email@example.com
David Mynors, Project Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
Dermot Moloney, Strategic Lead Housing email@example.com
Debbie White, Procurement Services Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
I have learned very quickly that to have a professional and responsive procurement team on board early saves time and money and ensures better results.
Dermot Moloney, Project Sponsor and Strategic Housing Lead - Thurrock Council