In this blog, Tiffany Davies from the Procurement Operations Team provides an overview of our Assisted Procurement Service and how it works, to help you decide if it is the right solution for your organisation.

High quality public services depend on modern, well-managed and efficient procurement, but at CCS we understand that many public sector organisations might be struggling to find the time and resource to buy the goods and services they need. 

It may be the case that your in-house commercial team would welcome support with their procurement activity so that your organisation can focus on prioritising other areas of the life-cycle, such as contract and supplier management, instead of sourcing. 

CCS can help – the solution

Did you know that CCS provides an end-to-end, Assisted Procurement Service (APS) that can help public sector customers save time and money? And that we can offer a wealth of experience when it comes to getting the best procurement solution – however complex? 

We are experts in the procurement/sourcing process and can help take the pressure off commercial staff, saving you precious time and allowing you to get on with what matters most, providing the best possible outcomes for your local communities, patients or pupils.

In this article, we explain how APS works to help you decide if it is the right solution for your organisation. 

What is the Assisted Procurement Service?

Our APS is available to all public and third sector organisations, free of charge. It is specifically designed for customers who would welcome support with running their procurements in order to free up resources for other procurement activity, such as contract management. 

Any common goods and services available through our CCS agreements are covered by APS. Our team of professionals has experience in running tenders across all types of procurements and sectors, whether you need help building a new hospital wing or digitally transforming your organisation. 

We have supported multiple customers across the wider public sector and central government including the NHS, police and local councils. In 2021/22 we helped deliver procurements for customers through the Assisted Procurement Service worth a total annual contract value of £5 billion.

How does APS work? 

Each customer using our APS is assigned a procurement lead, who will be your single point of contact and will work with you throughout the entire procurement process.

Procurement leads handle only a small number of tenders at any one time. Therefore we’re able to provide a high level of personal service and support to customers. Additionally, all our procurement leads are experienced procurement professionals, each individual customer requirement is reviewed and allocated to an appropriate procurement lead with the right skill to support. 

Your procurement lead will:

  • prepare robust documentation in collaboration with you, using our standard templates and following best practice, and policy guidance outlined in procurement policy notes
  • issue the approved documentation to suppliers using our secure eSourcing Platform and handle the supplier bid clarification process
  • arrange and lead the evaluation of bids, including providing training to technical evaluators, managing the moderation process and taking notes to ensure a clear audit trail
  • draft a recommendation report on the successful supplier, including full details of the entire process and any procurement risks and issues for the customer to be aware of 
  • draft and issue contractual documentation including contract schedules, letters and supplier feedback 

When not to use it

CCS only provides procurement support via our own frameworks. We do not provide APS through an open market/Find a Tender Service route. 

It is important for customers to ensure that the procurement lead and CCS team are adding value. Sometimes it may be more appropriate or easier for customers to run their own procurements via self-serve across our agreements, for example when there is a more urgent need for goods or services. The Assisted Service route is best used when the customers are in need of commercial advice and guidance for more complex requirements. 

What do I need to do as a customer? 

All customers are responsible for providing a complete Statement of Requirements (SOR), otherwise known as a specification and any supporting materials that suppliers will need to see. If you are a school for example, this could include requirements from central or local government, who will be providing funding for your procurement. 

Additionally, you will need to agree on the timeline at the start of the process and identify and provide evaluations for the bid evaluation process. 

How do I access the ASP?

The service can be accessed in 2 ways, either by contacting our Customer Services team at info@crowncommercial.gov.uk or, if you have one, through your Account Manager within the Customer Experience Directorate. 

Please note: your Account Manager will require ‘high level detail’ such as timescales, value and a brief description of your procurement 12 weeks before your SOR is sent in. Your Procurement Lead is allocated when this information has been received. Work will not start on the procurement until the SOR is received on the agreed date. The more notice we have in advance of your requirement, the more likely we will be able to support your procurement.

More information and guidance for public and third sector buyers, as well as full details of all of our commercial agreements, can be found in the latest CCS digital brochure.

For further information on using the Assisted Service, please contact your Account Manager or info@crowncommercial.gov.uk