The Crown Commercial Service outlines its response to SME concerns about the new facilities management framework

We’re looking for people to comment on the ability of the new Crown Commercial Services framework to truly entice SMEs into the fray as suppliers of FM services to government. Plenty of work has been done to stop larger firms or force local-only sourcing. Yet can this new framework really unlock SME involvement in this kind of work? The last attempt backfired.

We’ve had comment back that, like the last attempt, this one is doomed to fail in its laudable intentions because the practical risk considerations that typical SME suppliers have to undertake still make their place on such frameworks untenable.

Contribution from Valerie Miller, Business Development Director, Bellrock

The UK Government is recognising that things have to change when it comes to its FM supply chain. With Brexit looming large the OJEC framework could be under threat posing a challenge on two fronts. The framework and means of communicating requirements disappear, and suppliers from across the European Union will undoubtedly be precluded from the tender process.

Small and medium-sized businesses in the UK have historically shied away from Government contracts, yet states that central government is committed to 33% of central procurement spend going to SMEs directly or via the supply chain by 2022.

Bellrock works with hundreds of small and medium sized businesses. Under the Bellrock umbrella they are able to service government contracts safe in the knowledge that the risk profile and financial arrangements are managed on their behalf. In the open market the process of finding and winning Government business is lengthy, it requires the resource to complete the necessary qualification documents and often the expectation of risk is not commensurate with the sustainability of a small business.

This perception has been compounded when Crown Commercial Services announced a facilities management lot last year. Any small to medium sized cleaning company for example would have only been able to meet the requirements of the framework if they developed strategic alliances. Whether teaming up with other like-minded suppliers providing complementary FM services such as pest control and fire alarm installation for example or plugging a gap in a bigger organisation’s capability, the time and resource required is significant.

It is therefore welcome news that Crown Commercial Service are entertaining a new Lot structure for workplace services that in their words is ‘suitable, for both customer and the market’. However two distinct challenges remain to entice an often hard to reach an audience to engage with the process.

How does Government catch the attention of small and medium sized businesses about the opportunity? There has been a programme of engagement that includes webinars and conferences but in reality more could be done to communicate more extensively. Repeating the message and seeding it on trusted existing platforms, such as Chamber of Commerce or other well-recognised small to medium sized business networks may help.

How can the risk be made more commensurate with the reward from a supplier perspective? This would require a root and branch review of contract terms. Small to medium sized businesses perceive risk differently and cannot mitigate in the same way as larger organisations.

Finding a middle ground where a larger organisation manages the supply chain could deliver protection for suppliers and transparency for Government in terms of performance and managing risk.


The article as appearing in FM World:

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