Playbooks are an insightful and practical resource for public sector buyers. Here’s our guide on how to use them effectively.
Published 7 December 2023
Last updated 7 December 2023
What are playbooks and why are they important?
Playbooks set out how departments should approach procurement and programmes of activity, and their application is assured through Cabinet Office controls. They also outline the Government’s expectations for how contracting authorities and suppliers should engage with each other.
Playbooks are specifically designed to demystify procurement processes, promote consistency, and ensure compliance with regulatory frameworks.
The proportionate application of Playbooks across the public sector is best practice. Playbooks must be applied to Gold and Silver tiered contracts for Government Departments and their ALBs.
Five reasons to use playbooks
1. Enhance understanding
Playbooks are an educational tool, helping you grasp the key concepts, terminology, and procedures associated with public sector procurement. By providing clear explanations and examples, playbooks bridge the knowledge gap and enable you to run procurement activities smoothly and effectively even if this doesn’t usually form part of your day to day role.
2. Streamlining processes
Playbooks offer a structured approach to procurement, breaking it down into easy to understand, manageable steps. This speeds up the process, allowing you to spend more time on what matters most – such as running your school.
They provide detailed guidance on the various stages of procurement, such as needs assessment, supplier selection, contract negotiation, and performance management. By following the guidance contained in playbooks, non-procurement professionals can ensure consistent and efficient procurement practices across different departments and projects.
3. Ensuring compliance
Procurement in the public sector is subject to strict regulations and guidelines to ensure transparency, fairness, and value for money. Playbooks include relevant legislative requirements and policies, ensuring that non-procurement professionals adhere to the legal framework. This reduces non-compliance risk and promotes ethical procurement practices across the public sector.
4. Mitigating risks
There can be inherent risks associated with procurement , such as financial mismanagement, vendor bias, or inadequate contract terms. Playbooks provide risk mitigation strategies and highlight potential pitfalls, enabling non-procurement professionals to make informed decisions and minimise vulnerabilities. Following the playbook’s recommendations helps to ensure that you can mitigate risks and safeguard public funds.
5. Collaboration and consistency
Playbooks enable collaboration between non-procurement professionals and procurement specialists by providing buyers with guidance, instructions and expert advice, encouraging non-procurement professionals to collaborate where possible with procurement professionals.
As a resource, playbooks encourage cross-functional engagement, allowing professionals from various departments to align their efforts and work towards common procurement goals. By following consistent processes outlined in playbooks, you can achieve uniformity in procurement practices across departments, enhancing transparency and fairness.
What government playbooks are currently available?
Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT)
This playbook sets out key policies and guidance for assessing, procuring and delivering digital projects and programmes.
The 11 key policy reforms set out in the DDaT playbook cover everything from developing and publishing commercial pipelines to effective contracting, open and interoperable data and code, and supplier assurance. CCS can support contracting authorities’ strategic planning in these areas in several ways.
CCS has access to market intelligence and commercial expertise in technology procurement, including in the specialist fields of cyber security, big data, AI and cloud computing. Our commercial agreements provide firm foundations for meeting the Playbook’s recommended contractual baseline of commercial, technical, security and legal principles.
The Construction Playbook sets out key policies and guidance for how public works projects and programmes are assessed, procured and delivered.
Having led the drafting process, covering early supplier engagement, outcome-based specifications, effective contracting, risk management, long-term planning and the overall procurement process, CCS continues to be part of the steering group supporting and overseeing the Construction Playbook’s implementation.
Our construction experts are instrumental in shaping the public sector’s approach in the field, most recently launching our new partnership construction agreement with NHS England, which is both playbook-compliant and meets the new construction Gold Standard. This brings together our construction procurement offer with the next generation of the ProCure agreement – helping to rationalise the number of public sector construction frameworks in operation, as the Playbook recommends.
The Consultancy Playbook sets out key guidance on commissioning and engaging with consultants more effectively to achieve better outcomes and value for money.
The Consultancy Playbook recommends that commercial teams consider whether there is a suitable CCS agreement to go to market through. Using CCS’s consultancy frameworks ‘provides an efficient route to market… allowing users to reduce cost, mitigate risk and maintain delivery assurance.’
Since its launch, CCS has worked closely with partners including the Government Consulting Hub, Cabinet Office’s Markets and Suppliers team, and Crown Representatives to increase the Government’s in-house capacity and expertise, boost collaboration, and ensure that, where external expertise is required, the public sector makes better decisions based on firmer data.
It is worth noting that the Consultancy Playbook forms part of the Sourcing Playbook. Therefore, where relevant, the 11 policies and principles of the Sourcing Playbook will also apply to consultancy contracts.
The Sourcing Playbook is focused on choosing the best model for delivering public services. The latest update to the Sourcing Playbook means it now includes updates and renewed focus on themes where consultations with industry and contracting authorities identified updated content would prove most useful, including managing inflation.
The Sourcing Playbook applies to frameworks and dynamic purchasing systems, and these should be set up following the guidelines, rules and principles set out within the Sourcing Playbook. Our customers use CCS as a preferred route to market and as a result, CCS has a responsibility to ensure all our customers can fulfil their policy obligations, either directly under the Playbook or indirectly under the National Procurement Policy Statement.
Earlier this year, guidance was produced on how to effectively use the Sourcing Playbook in conjunction with framework agreements.
Want to know more?