CCS urged to beef up marketing of Network Services framework
Supplier group Innopsis raises concern that although usage of RM1045 is accelerating, the actual revenue generated by the framework is just £60m
Suppliers on the Network Services framework (RM1045) that is now a year old are beginning to raise concerns about the amount of business flowing through the framework.
The RM1045 framework consists of 59 suppliers and ten lots, with over 30% of the suppliers being SMEs. The framework replaced the previous PSN Services and PSN Connectivity frameworks in August 2015 and now provides the public sector with an approved route for procuring connectivity solutions.
The suppliers’ concern is that although use of the framework is gradually accelerating – with the expectation of an annualised rate of tenders well in excess of 500 – the actual value of business flowing through the framework only amounts to £60m of actual spend, because many of the tenders have been for low values.
One of the suppliers’ worries is that the framework is not being sufficiently marketed to users by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS). For its part, CCS insists the framework is doing well, and it is taking steps to raise its profile.
The framework runs for three years, which means that in just six months’ time, the framework will have run half of its course. By then, the suppliers will have a strong idea of the overall business they can expect to see flowing through the duration of the framework, and given the previous years’ steady, but hardly spectacular business, they are already calling on (CCS) to take action to promote the framework more effectively. Sectors they believe that would find the framework attractive are healthcare, notably NHS trusts, and in education, through schools’ partnerships and local councils.
“We really believe CCS has to do more in terms of marketing and promoting the framework,” said Kelvin Prescott, information director for Innopsis, the industry association which represents a number of suppliers on the framework.”
“The amount of spend through the framework is not where we expect it to be and not what CCS expects it to be either. We think CCS should be investing more in the marketing and promotion of RM1045.”
However, a CCS spokesman said, "The new RM1045 framework is 13 months old - it is currently outperforming the two networks it replaced, both in terms of spend-to-date and order-to-date, at this stage of its life-cycle.
“In terms of raising the profile of the new framework, we have just finished a series of well-received marketing events with the help of Innopsis, which have been designed to raise the profile of the new network and showcase its considerable benefits to customers.
“We are working hard to ensure that the new network is effective as possible and this reinforces our commitment to provide better value for money to the taxpayer.”
Innopsis believes the Crown Commercial Service must be as proactive and strong in promoting Network Services and similar frameworks as the Government Digital Service (GDS) actively promotes the G-Cloud framework and the Digital Outcomes and Services agreement.
A new head of the ICT category within CCS, Ieuan Trigger, began his role in April and Innopsis believes Trigger should be taking all necessary steps to beef up marketing of Network Services and increase the value flowing through it.
The CCS Business Plan 2016/17 recently increased the commission it takes from suppliers’ invoices gained as a result of suppliers’ participation in the framework from 0.9% per invoice to 1.6% per invoice. However, the exact fee varies by framework, and only takes effect for new frameworks. So, it will not affect the Network Services framework, but will affect its successor agreement.
In total, 368 RFPs were issued to the end of May 2016, with a peak in March 2016 of 66. Innopsis noted that March was expected to be a peak month, being the end of the public sector financial year.
A previous Innopsis review of the PSN Services and Connectivity Frameworks, which RM1045 replaces, found that there were a total of 602 contract awards over a three year period – an annualised equivalent of just 200. But the value flowing through the PSN frameworks was much greater. The total amount of business that had flowed through the two PSN Services and Connectivity frameworks by the time they ended was around £1.5bn.
An Innopsis review of the distribution of business across the different requirements of Network Services has indicated a good spread of business across most of the lots, Innopsis said, with Data Access, IP Telephony, Local Connectivity and Mobile all stimulating significant interest.
Prescott added, “This is a much healthier position than the PSN agreements, where some lots saw very high levels of activity whilst others were more or less unused. There are a couple of lots that languish at the bottom of the RFP league table – notably Paging and Audioconferencing which have had just a single tender.”
Prescott indicated that although 30% of the suppliers on Network Services are SMEs, there is some concern that many of them may not be winning any business through the framework.
“Although there are 25 suppliers on each lot, and many of them are SMEs, the reality is that only a minority of those SMEs have won any business so far.”