New Sourcing and Consultancy Playbooks

The Cabinet Office is continuing its work to improve the delivery of public services. Its new Sourcing and Consultancy Playbooks update and strengthen previous guidance and more accurately reflect Government policies and priorities. There is more focus on social value, more recognition of the role of consultants and a revised approach for make-versus-buy assessments.

Combined within Procurement Policy Note 03/21, the guidance applies to all Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies. If you’re in an In-Scope Organisation, this guidance applies now. The old Outsourcing Playbook is out of date, no longer reflecting a reality where high-quality public services could be insourced, outsourced or delivered by a combined approach.  

What’s in the new playbooks?

Briefly, the Sourcing Playbook gives guidance on how Government departments should approach and improve service delivery. It includes expectations for how contracting authorities and suppliers should engage with each other.

The Consultancy Playbook has been developed in partnership with the Government Consulting Hub. It gives guidance on effective engagement with consultants and on how to achieve better outcomes and value for money. What’s more, by encouraging knowledge and skills transfer, it aims to improve civil service capability.  

The new documents build on the previous guidance, but the policies have been refined. They reflect lessons learned, embed the principles of social value and remove confusion by ensuring terminology aligns with the Government Commercial Functional Standard. 

As a reminder, the eleven key policies are:

  1. Publication of commercial pipelines
  2. Market health and capability assessments
  3. Project Validation Review 
  4. Delivery model assessments
  5. Should Cost Modelling
  6. Requirement for pilots
  7. Key Performance Indicators 
  8. Risk Allocation
  9. Pricing and payment mechanisms
  10. Assessing the economic and financial standing of suppliers
  11. and Resolution planning

The documents make it clear that the delivery of public services is a collaborative endeavour involving input from commercial, finance, project delivery, policy and other professions. 

Particular attention should be paid to refreshed content across the following areas:

Consultancy Playbook

The new Consultancy Playbook sets out how to get the best from consultancy engagements. It gives guidance on how to engage with the market to encourage innovation, to write effective specifications, and how to collaborate to achieve meaningful and measurable knowledge transfer. 

Designed to fit into the typical procurement process, guidance is split into three chapters:

  1. Getting consultancy engagements right at the outset, choosing the right delivery model, engaging with the market and setting procurements up for success.
  2. Writing effective specifications, evaluation criteria, selecting routes to market to draw out the suppliers needed, pricing and payment mechanisms, bid evaluation and data capture. 
  3. Maximising value throughout, being an effective client and ensuring knowledge generation and transfer.

The Social Value Model

The new Sourcing Playbook stresses the importance of delivering social values through procurement using the Social Value Model. The guidance advises exploring and identifying social value opportunities during early engagement with supply markets and service users.  

The Government’s social value priorities are:

  • COVID-19 recovery
  • Tackling economic inequality
  • Fighting climate change
  • Equal opportunity
  • Wellbeing

Improved delivery model assessments

Formerly known as a make-versus-buy assessment, this is an analytical, evidence-based approach to assess whether a department should deliver a service in-house, procure from the market or adopt a hybrid solution. Guidance reflects the latest priorities and information is provided to explain when a delivery model assessment is required.

Improved Should Cost Model tools 

Along with updated content, there are additional tools and templates for Should Cost Models.  Guidance is given on how In-Scope Organisations can understand whole life costs.

Guidance Documentation

Alongside the publication of PPN 03/21, full guidance documentation has been published. This can be accessed via the following links:

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