April 14, 2021
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Divvying up the differences: Frameworks and DPS

Sandy Boxall takes a look at two types of procurement systems – frameworks and Dynamic Purchasing Systems and explores their differences and similarities  

I’ve been spending much of lockdown at home with my mum. It’s been great in many ways – home cooking on tap, first-hand reassurance that she is safe and well, and a chance to connect in ways large and small.

Take last night, for example. Normally we steer clear of work talk but, as ever, keen to understand the ins and outs of Contract Finder Pro (CFP), she asked me about how exactly businesses in our local area can sell to government when we’re still dealing with the pandemic.

Tempted as I was to delve deeply into the intricacies of tenders, contracts and how exactly civil servants and policymakers decide how to spend our hard earned taxes, instead I thought it would be better just to focus on a couple of items – Frameworks and Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) – at least to start with.

So, what are they exactly?

Definition of a DPS

As a glasses-wearer myself, the announcement from NHSX in early March that it is launching a DPS for  an electronic eye care referrals system was one that I took particular note of. Managed by the National Commercial and Procurement Hub, the DPS aims to enable quicker procurement of the systems and will remain in place until November 2024.

A DPS can be used for contracts for works, services and goods commonly available on the market. Unlike a framework, however, new suppliers can join any time and it is run as an entirely electronic process.  There are two stages to each DPS.

In the set-up phase, the good news is that any supplier which meets the selection criteria must be admitted – there is no limit to the number of suppliers which can join a DPS. And unlike framework agreements, suppliers can also apply to join at any point. It’s during the second phase when the contracts are handed out and this follows a request from the authority to all suppliers to bid for the specific contract.

Framework focus

By contrast, a framework agreement is an ‘umbrella agreement’ that sets out terms such as price, quality and quantity under which individual contracts can be made throughout the period of the agreement, which is usually up to four years. Unfortunately, and unlike with DPS, once the umbrella agreement has been awarded there is no opportunity for new suppliers to join until the next agreement is awarded.

Getting on a framework agreement, however, offers advantages to both the buyer and the supplier. For the buyer, they get the opportunity to procure services and products from private sector suppliers multiple times without going through the full tender application process more than once. This means that when it is ready to order a new product or service, all it has to do is run a “call off” – which is basically a simplified process open only to the suppliers on the framework. Job done.

And for the supplier this flexibility means that even if they miss out on one opportunity, their presence on the framework agreement means that all they have to do is sit tight and wait for the next one to come around – which they are very likely to do several times before the end of the agreement. The level of effort to secure a place on a framework however can be quite high depending on the procurement approach.

How to maximise opportunities as a supplier

Opportunities differ, markets evolve and time always moves on. Clearly, as I mentioned above, each route to market has their advantages and disadvantages and procurement teams will choose based on which suits them best at the time. This will likely vary by category of good or service they are trying to procure.

As a supplier we believe it is vital to have as many routes to market as possible and therefore to make sure that you are on the appropriate Frameworks and DPSs. Frameworks particularly are often only available to join every few years so missing one might lead to being shut out of an important market for a long time. The good news is that plenty of advanced notice should be published for these types of tender, such as this one which has been published as a Prior Information Notice (PIN) and has a year of notice before the main competition will start: Southern Construction Framework.

As a DPS should be available to join at any time so there is no reason to wait, just find the ones that are likely to be useful.

Summary of suggested strategies:

  • For frameworks, set up your alerts for your areas of interest and make sure you engage with the process as early as you can
  • For DPS, search through the currently available ones and sign up to any that look appropriate

Whatever you decide, CFP is always here to assist so if you have any questions or queries don’t hesitate to get in touch. And who knows, maybe my Mum will soon be able to help too!

About the author

Sandy Boxall is Founder and Business Development Director at Contract Finder Pro

sandy.boxall@contractfinderpro.com