Government departments must be able to access professional services to ensure the successful delivery of a project or programme. But such specialist staff can be expensive, costing you twice as much as their nearest permanent staff counterpart. To control this spend NAO (National Audit Office) issued a directive in 2011 to Government departments on the use of external consultants and contractors. Since then, consultancy can be procured only through limited routes.

In this post, we will give you an overview, as well as the advantages and disadvantages, for four of them – Public Sector Resourcing (PSR), Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Marketplaces, and Digital Outcomes & Specialists’ opportunities. By the end of this blog you’ll understand which route is best for you.

What is a Public Sector Resourcing framework?

The Public Sector Resourcing (PSR) framework is a framework through which public sector authorities can source contingent workers. The central cause behind the setting up PSR was to make use of the Government’s buying power. The advantage of using the PSR framework is that it serves many use cases and takes a purist approach to IR35. Public sector authorities can also direct-hire via PSR database of candidates interested in working in the public sector, including previously hired candidates.

However, the PSR framework will underperform for your needs as it tries to be the same thing to many scenarios. To have similar service levels for all kinds of work in the public sector is a far too broad approach. PSR also takes a large amount of staffing effort from the existing programme team. Your team may spend lots of time preparing long briefs, chasing your agency, reviewing piles of CVs, or interviewing hundreds of people.

Overall, PSR lacks the creativity of the other routes to market. For example, it would be difficult to provide a bespoke screening process to include pre-hire assessment tools and exercises. Typically, all users of a shared service arrangement receive a similar vanilla service. As such you may make the case internally to source your own programme managed professional services provider.

What does a Managed Service Provider do?

A managed service provider is a great option for project or programme resourcing. The advantage of using an MSP is that they are focused and aligned with the programme objectives. As a result, the programme is aligned to the providers’ ways of working, rather than the other way round. Furthermore, the procurement burden is low. Only one procurement is needed to appoint a managed service provider and then they get on with it.

Another advantage is that unlike other routes, MSP’s are not confined to a time-boxed search campaign. As they know your hiring forecasts, they can create processes to be a 24/7 funnel for top talent. The risk with time-boxed campaigns is that top talent may simply not be interested at the time you wish to hire. As a result, they may never show up in your shortlist. Also, unlike the PSR framework, MSPs are visible outside IR35 through a combination of measures. For example, through substitution and the SOW approach. 

A disadvantage of using a reputable MSP is that it can be expensive. As a result, using an MSP is often the costliest route to market. However, having an MSP will save you in other areas. The MSP is a self-learning system and over time will learn more about your programme. This will feed into future work which will help to reduce brief times and ensure shortlists are intuitively right.

At Mindful we can deliver our services within industry standard margins. Our working model is efficient because we have exclusivity over a programme, so we are not wasting our efforts in speculative opportunities. Contact us on info@mindfulcontract.co.uk. Our services can be procured via GCloud.

What are Marketplaces exchanges?

Marketplaces such as Bloom allow access to a thriving community of users and practitioners and are a great option for outside IR35 operation. The benefit of using this route to market is that they combine open-source flexibility with enterprise-level assurance. This ensures that organisational priorities are not only met but in most cases exceeded.

However, marketplaces require high existing programme team involvement in selection while supplier appetite for solutions like this should be observed. To get the most out of marketplaces the customer must start using it as well. Systems like this work best if the entire organisation adopts them as the default way of doing things.

Digital Outcomes & Specialists’ Opportunities

This agreement helps the public sector buy, design, build and deliver digital outcomes by finding appropriate specialists to deliver agile software development. The advantage of using this route to market is that it enables easy access to suppliers with the right capabilities. Additionally, it is a flexible and speedy route to meet customers’ digital project needs.

However, this process is very prescriptive and can drive the wrong behaviours from bidders. For example, any registered supplier can nominate any specialist of their choosing for the opportunity. However, as suppliers can only nominate one individual there is a bias for ‘safer’ bets. As a result, DOS Specialists’ Opportunities regularly achieve 50-100 submissions for every opportunity. The burden on reviewers is high and with low odds of selection, suppliers find it unviable to commit too much time and effort in nominating the best hire to put forward. The framework is seen as a ‘lottery’ rather than a genuine business opportunity. Consequently, you aren’t really seeing the supplier’s best work when you ask for resources through this route.

Conclusion

So which route to market should Government departments use to access professional services? First, think through what you want from your managed professional services provider for your Digital Programme. Then compare that against what is obtainable from the four different routes identified.

With inhouse commercial expertise, we can guide you through how you can satisfy policies and controls, whilst still choosing the right fit interim resourcing service for your Digital Programme. Contact us on info@mindfulcontract.co.uk.