Getting the most out of your supplier engagement with crown commercial service (ccs) frameworks

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Iron Mountain is a named supplier on a number of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) framework agreements. We have worked with the public sector for a number of years, and one thing that we find to be invaluable is engagement with customers

28 September 2023 mins

Getting the most out of your supplier engagement with Crown Commercial Service (CCS) frameworks

Iron Mountain is a named supplier on a number of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) framework agreements. We have worked with the public sector for a number of years, and one thing that we find to be invaluable is engagement with customers.

Challenges with market engagement

As a supplier we recognise that public sector procurement teams face a number of challenges, including change programmes, pressures to do more with less. More recently we have also seen a move to new ways of working. Using framework (or commercial) agreements, such as those offered by CCS, can alleviate some of the challenges of multiple routes to market. However, deciding on the best fit for your requirement can prove difficult if there is not a direct match between the service that you require and the specification of the framework.

You may also be concerned about appearing to favour one supplier over another, or not wanting to be ‘sold to’ (rather than listened to). Understandably, this can lead to inadvertently defaulting to a ‘zero- or minimal-engagement’ approach.

From a supplier’s perspective, not approaching the market does carry risks. These could include a misunderstanding between what your organisation needs and what suppliers propose to you through your procurement exercises. It can also lead to responses which are difficult to compare, or disproportionate special terms which may restrict the number of responses you receive.

Engagement with suppliers ahead of time can help avoid these and ensure you get much better results from your procurement. It is also recommended by the Cabinet Office Sourcing Playbook on best practice for public sector procurement.

So why should you engage with the market?

Early engagement promotes innovative thinking at the very early stage of procurement. It allows you to have open communication with potential suppliers and understand new technologies and solutions. It can also help to promote upcoming opportunities, and to understand and discuss potential issues and risks.

It also improves the likelihood of a successful tender exercise with a greater chance of the bids from all potential suppliers proposing exactly what you need. It helps you produce a specification that represents market capability across a wide supplier base.

How to get the best out of market engagement

So how do you make sure you get the best out of supplier engagement? The following suggestions are all useful ways of proactively engaging with suppliers to help you get informed while staying in the driving seat:

  • Engage with suppliers informally - whether viewing their services or talking to them about what they do. This will allow you to approach other suppliers with similar questions and thoroughly understand the market before putting together your specification. You can speak to as many suppliers as you like in as much detail as you like as long as you are not in the middle of a formal procurement, making you the expert by the time you come to reviewing your procurement responses.
  • Engage with suppliers through a supplier engagement day during which they can put questions to you and ask you about your plans. By running a formal opportunity like this you will ensure that the message gets out to as many interested organisations as possible, ensuring that you get the broadest possible view of potential suppliers - and it might include useful surprises. Don’t forget that you may get best results from this by giving suppliers an opportunity to talk to you individually as well as in a group setting.
  • Following up on an engagement day can also be very useful. Offering 1-1 sessions with suppliers could mean that they are more willing to share innovation in a more private setting.
  • Once you are in a procurement exercise, ensure a meaningful amount of time for clarification questions. At the end of the day, you’re looking for suppliers who really think about what you need and take time to develop a fully-costed solution - not an organisation who rushes a response together and then finds themselves struggling to deliver for you.
  • Although the terms and conditions are set at framework level, do take the time to understand if there are any special terms that are specific to the industry that you are procuring in. Do have these conversations upfront to reduce the risk or low tender responses or a surprise when a supplier brings up special terms.

By working together with suppliers and making use of their expertise, you put yourself in the best position to run an effective, streamlined procurement to meet your organisation’s needs while knowing you’re complying with best practice guidelines.

This post was written in conjunction with CCS. For any further guidance or clarification, the CCS team is always happy to help and can be reached at or visit the following framework web pages.

RM6175 Records Information Management, Digital Solutions and Associated Services

RM6282 Storage, Distribution, Kitting and Associated Services

RM6017 Postal Goods, Services and Solutions

RM6074 Logistics and Warehousing

RM6194 Back Office Software

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