Why we need CCS
The goal of Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is to be the ‘go-to’ place for expert commercial and procurement services. But who are they and what do they do?
CCS comprises of three main catalogues (as well as other frameworks) – the Purchasing Platform, the Digital Marketplace, and the eMarketplace. Of these, you are most likely to be familiar with the Digital Marketplace – here, G-Cloud and DOS are hosted, as well as the Crown Hosting Data Centres framework. Through CCS, 17,000 buyers spend £12bn a year. The Digital Marketplace accounted for £1.21bn of this in 2017, and this figure has been reached through a general upward trend since the inception of G-Cloud in 2012.
How did it all start?
Procurement procedures are traditionally a long and tricky business. In the past, public sector IT procurement, from policy formation to launch, could take anywhere up to 18 months and beyond – and with the quick exponential advancement of technology, this could leave the implemented solution outdated by the launch date. With the Digital Marketplace, CCS aimed to change all of that. The Digital Marketplace has enabled the timescale of a procurement to be shortened significantly to 1-30 days (depending on the framework).
This is obviously beneficial to both the buyer and the supplier – a quicker turnaround for the buyer means a more quickly implemented solution, and one that shouldn’t become outdated within the length of the contract. For the supplier, this means less time spent producing bids that have a chance of not winning contracts (less money spent on resources, more time to spend on R&D, etc). This time-and-money-saving ethos is carried throughout CCS – one of the key benefits of an over-arching body is the ability to aggregate purchases.
While aggregation is not a new process, and has its positive and negatives, CCS claim to be able to save public sector buyers millions of pounds. With CCS acting as a central ‘buyer’, running the procurement, customers with the same or similar requirements are brought together to make the opportunity more attractive to suppliers – bringing more bids for business. This saves buyers time – with CCS running the procurement, there is very little administration for the separate buyers to go through. This saves buyers money – a recent aggregation opportunity posted on CCS’s Network Services framework brought together 17 buyers, all in need of similar mobile voice and data services – totalling 21,000 connections. Each buyer was able to make an indicative saving of 61% – equivalent to a saving of £2.7m over 2 years. This level of saving is great for buyers – especially as an aggregation can involve any number of public sector organisations, from the Ministry of Justice down to the smallest Local Government department.
What are the benefits of CCS?
But individual buyers can benefit from CCS as well. CCS commercial agreements use competition among suppliers to increase quality and value – and there are over 80 commercial agreements that a buyer can choose from. Procurement regulations oblige public sector bodies to tender from suppliers when buying goods and services – buying through CCS complies with procurement regulations but also simplifies the process for buyers. As well as this, all suppliers are carefully evaluated before being allowed to sell through a CCS agreement – such as the application process suppliers had to go through for the recent Data and Application Services framework. This careful evaluation ensures that the CCS catalogues and frameworks contain only the most suitable suppliers!
It’s not just buyers that benefit from CCS. Bringing policy and direct buying together in a single organisation, CCS operates as the overarching trading fund for all public sector procurement – and by utilising the framework methodology, have opened up the doors to SMEs. A huge 47% of the total spend on G-Cloud since its inception has been with small and medium enterprises, with £471m going to SMEs in 2017 alone. The UK Governments attempt to make the public sector marketplace more accessible to SMEs is led by CCS.
A central, compiled list of tender opportunities means suppliers don’t have to search for opportunities on separate buyer’s procurement portals – which can be time-consuming and hard to find. This, of course, saves suppliers time (and money). While these portals largely still exist (and to some extent are still used), the majority of public sector contracts (especially technology and specialist contracts) are posted on DOS, Contracts Finder and OJEU. This is particularly good for transparency – and from the viewpoint of the buyer, the supplier, and the general public, transparency of Public Sector spending is a crucial standpoint, and one that CCS makes every effort to adhere to. With regularly updated spend data, anyone who knows where to go can access data on how much a contract is worth, who the buyer is and who the supplier is.
Crown Commercial Service brings with it many benefits, for every supplier and for every buyer – even benefiting the general public and saving the taxpayer money. Streamlining procurement and tendering processes saves time and money, keeping technology solutions in the Public Sector workplace up-to-date and cloud-based!