• 8 June 2021

Creating new public sector opportunities for our industry through the Consultancy Playbook

Waterman’s COO and ACE Chair of Procurement & Pipeline, Neil Humphrey, shares his thoughts on the Government’s Consultancy Playbook.

Launched in late May, the Playbook provides guidance for the public sector on how to get the most from engaging and commissioning consultants as it aims to help the sector achieve better outcomes, maximise value for money and improved Civil Service capability through the transfer of knowledge and skill.

In his recent ACE blog, Neil wrote:

Creating new opportunities for our industry?

The Consultancy Playbook is intended to not only help Government get the best from consultants, but to provide reassurance to taxpayers and the civil service that the relationships are delivering value for money.

Assuming it reaches its full potential and is implemented by all public sector authorities, the Playbook’s publication can ensure that the right relationships are created from the outset. This added clarity could also potentially have knock-on effects throughout the civil service in their existing dealings with consultants – reducing over-reliance on single suppliers, providing value for money for the taxpayer, and delivering better quality outputs.

Members will also welcome a potential side-effect around the Playbook’s publication in encouraging the public sector to be more thoughtful and precise in its future use of consultancy. If implemented correctly, this could open-up the market and create new opportunities for us as an industry and as a key delivery partner for government. Something which the Future of Consultancy campaign has recognised around our members expanding into strategic and operational advisory work.

Ideas within the Playbook around disaggregation and early market engagement aim to avoid the over-reliance on a single firm, and encourage access to smaller suppliers and SMEs. Furthermore, output based specifications and evaluation will give consultants more freedom to explore how best to deliver outcomes, while the focus on quality criteria to differentiate between bidders means that price alone is no longer the deciding factor for the public sector when choosing a partner. Encouraging an understanding of market specialisation will also be of interest to our members, as it will ensure that government increasingly turns to subject-matter experts, rather than more generic market advice.

While the Consultancy Playbook will not provide all of the answers in itself, it has a crucial role to play in the emergence of a new and consistent approach across different departments. When the commitment to widen the pool of consultancies is added to the mix, we are left with a – on paper at least – new approach with plenty of new opportunities for our members to seize in the future.

More immediately, for ACE members already working closely with clients in government or public sector bodies, the Playbook is a new and potentially powerful resource to use and sign-post to. It can help open-up and positively shape conversations with clients around value for money, bidding for work, collaboration, contract management or knowledge transfer. Previously difficult and delicate discussions which, thanks to the Playbook’s publication can now be far more open, honest and direct than ever before.

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