Tapping into great commercial minds

Chief executive Sally Collier 
describes what the organisation has achieved since its inception and shares some future
insight into procurement reforms

We are in the middle of a very exciting period of transition at the Crown Commercial Service. Since starting the journey towards the end of last year, and formally launching in April, we have already made huge strides forward in establishing our new all-encompassing commercial service.
    
The Crown Commercial Service exists to bring together Government’s commercial capability into one integrated organisation; and I am privileged as Chief Executive to be working with some of the most dedicated and experienced commercial brains at this time of continuous growth, progressive change and increased accountability.
    
We offer three principal services; great commercial deals where customers can buy goods and services, expert commercial advice and delivery of the government’s policies of the day, such as a new legislative framework for procurement and 25 per cent of central government business delivered by SMEs.

Our team
The Crown Commercial Service Board has been strengthened by the introduction of the best commercial minds from both public and private sector. Earlier this month Ed Smith, the former Chief Operating Officer and Strategy Chair of PwC’s Global Assurance business joined us as non-executive Chairman.
    
Buying is an integral part of our service offering. By purchasing once as the Crown, our commercial delivery team under the direction of Matt Denham who joined us earlier in the year from global buyers Xchanging, provide both our central government and wider public sector customers with more efficient and innovative ways of buying common goods and services. This can be anything from stationery, electricity, cars, temporary staff and IT hardware & software. This makes budgets work harder and allows more funds to be dedicated to frontline services.
    
The advisory services provided by the commercial advice team range from the renegotiation of complex contracts to helping  resolve disputes. Lawrence Christensen CBE, who has over 20 years of board level experience as a director of various FTSE 100 companies, is the latest addition to our Crown Representatives team, a network of experienced business leaders assigned to key suppliers to ensure government acts as a single customer and that contracts provide the best value for money.

Policy initiatives and SMEs
Our policy team has made excellent progress and new legislation is on its way, renegotiating with the EU to help improve and simplify the tender process.
    
A number of initiatives are in the pipeline to make it easier for businesses of all sizes to bid to become suppliers to government and the public sector. By improving engagement with suppliers before procurements commence, we are confident that we can develop contracts that leverage the latest innovations available and can be delivered by a wide range of suppliers to meet our customers’ needs.

What’s more, by simplifying the entire procurement process we believe we will encourage the best bidders for public sector contracts, regardless of size.
    
The ‘Lord Young’ reforms, set to be implemented later this year, will improve payment performance across the supply chain by ensuring all suppliers are paid within 30 days. They will also remove Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs) for contracts below £100,000, and introduce a standardised questionnaire for high value agreements, making it simpler and easier for suppliers to bid.

The reforms will also promote greater transparency through an increase in the number of public bodies reporting how much of their spend goes through SMEs and voluntary, community and social enterprises. A new and improved ‘Contracts Finder’ tool, which will give suppliers easier access to opportunities, will be in place.

Early Achievements
We are very proud of the successes we have already achieved in such a short period of time.
    
Our work involves big numbers. We have supported customers in delivering procurement and commercial savings of £5.4 billion through price and demand savings and centrally renegotiating large contracts. Over the 2013/14 period £13.1 billion of central government and wider public sector spend came through our procurement solutions, marking a 15 per cent growth on the previous year.
    
Increasing commercial capability across the public sector is really important to us and such growth and development means we are keen to attract even more gifted individuals. A recruitment hub has been launched and we are now involved in the recruitment of all commercial posts to SCS level across government.

Launching careers
A Commercial Graduate Fast Stream Programme and Fast Track Modern Apprentice Programme have also been launched, providing excellent opportunities for skilled and dedicated young people looking to forge a commercial career in the civil service.
    
The acclaimed Commissioning Academy, which gives senior public sector commissioners an opportunity to develop their skills, has been branded a ‘must attend’ programme by Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude. It is set to double in size and further its commitment to the strengthening of commercial skills. In fact, Norfolk County Council was so impressed when they took part in the academy that they have worked with us to set up their own local academy; and the success of this pilot has encouraged plans for a country-wide network.
    
The academy has already boosted the commissioning skills of more than 250 public sector leaders and the ambitious target of 1,500 attendees by late 2016 has been set.
    
Also, a recent pilot for a Commercial School was attended by 24 delegates from the Crown Commercial Service and the wider Cabinet Office over three intensive days, with attendees challenged to find innovative ways to deliver success and generally improve their commercial capability.

A managed service
In other areas, our ‘managed service’ is growing to provide a fully-managed end to end transactional procurement function for central government customers, and is now being delivered to several departments, including the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Transport. We are now providing a service for £750 million of department spend on common goods and services and remaining departments are set to come on board over the next year. We also have plans to extend this service offering to wider public sector customers in the future.

The introduction of new contracting models is also helping us open up markets to new suppliers of all sizes, but in particular SMEs.
    
Our G-Cloud and Digital Services agreements are great examples of this, with SMEs making up more than 80 per cent of the suppliers in each. These numbers, alongside the fact that more than half of the suppliers available through our agreements are SMEs, give real momentum to the Government’s aspiration for 25 per cent of central Government spend to go through SMEs by May next year.
    
Our Technology team has also launched a dedicated aggregation service which is working with customers to develop opportunities to combine common technology requirements. This is yielding excellent results and is a great example of the added value services we have introduced for our customers, proving we are no longer just a ‘framework factory.’ For example, our latest Mobile Voice and Data Services aggregated further competition achieved savings in excess of £5.1 million. The team is now rolling out a comprehensive programme of regular aggregation opportunities to ensure we can achieve equally impressive results in other common technology areas.

Priorities for year ahead
However, our journey is far from complete. We have a significant journey to become a truly excellent commercial service provider.  We have set ourselves some ambitious savings targets for this year and commitments to our customers to continue to develop our managed service so that they can focus their resources on their specialist commercial activities. More skilled people will be recruited and leading edge learning and development (L&D) programmes will be developed.
    
Ensuring we are a genuine customer service business will take time but our foundations are built.

We have established a dedicated network of business partners for health, local government, education and police and we have a remit to ensure we fully understand our customers’ specific needs and that we can meet their expectations as we deliver a range of new and innovative procurement solutions.

Further information
www.ccs.cabinetoffice.gov.uk

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