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Case Studies

Smarter Commissioning, Better Contracting

Smarter Commissioning, Better Contracting

The Context

Smarter Commissioning, Better Contracting was an ambitious programme that set out to deliver £2.3m of savings from third party expenditure, while at the same time enhancing the organisation’s capabilities in commissioning, procurement and contract management.

These initiatives had been tried previously but had several false starts.  Savings targets from contracts had been included in the council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy for three consecutive years but had not been delivered.  The council recognised that it needed to do something differently and bring in a partner who could help to deliver immediate cashable savings while helping to develop the organisation’s own capabilities so that it would be more sustainable and self-sufficient for the future.

The Requirement

The council appointed us as their strategic delivery partner to deliver four main  objectives:

  • Support to deliver proposals agreed in the budget challenge. Providing additional capacity to confirm and implement savings proposals agreed as part of the budget to achieve at least the expected level plus any additional in year savings.

  • Support developing our longer term commissioning intentions and outcomes. Providing additional capability for strategic savings and market development helping develop robust proposals for 2020 and beyond.

  • Capability development.  Developing through doing; the knowledge, skills and capabilities we need in our new commissioning and contracting model, working together as one team and reducing our future reliance on external support.

  • Embedding social value. Help to ensure our commitment to social value is fully integrated into our commissioning and contract management approach through these projects and translates into tangible outcomes for residents and businesses.

The council required a flexible change partner that could not only provide strategic advice and guidance but assist them to drive projects through to completion, something they had struggled with in the past.  The tangible benefits and milestone delivery were important to the council, but so was the way in which the partner worked with them.

The Programme

Working with the corporate commissioning team and service areas across the organisation, we developed a programme of work to deliver cashable savings, improved performance and greater social value over a 15 month period.

Alongside the delivery of savings, we worked with the council to transform its commissioning, commercial and contract management capability. While there were pockets of good practice, the council wanted to develop and embed a more consistent approach to this and roll out a single framework across all areas of the organisation.  With goods and services procured ranging from social care to highways maintenance, achieving consistency is not an easy challenge for a local authority.

Working with the core commercial and contracts team and people in commissioning and contract management role across the organisation, we developed a new framework based on:

  • Strategic Commissioning

  • Strategic Sourcing

  • Procurement

  • Contract Management

This included a comprehensive review of tools, templates, processes, systems and skills.

As part of this process, undertook an organisation-wide review of commercial competencies, assessing the baseline position and future learning needs for 160 staff in relevant roles.  This process looked at more than 1,400 data points through an online assessment, interviews and analysis of work samples to make evidence-based recommendations for improvement.

The Outcomes

  • Programme expectations exceeded – £2.8m savings delivered against a target of £2.3m, with milestones delivered ahead of target despite delays due to COVID-19

  • 600% return on investment

  • New framework for commissioning, procurement and contract management activity

  • Capability improvements across commissioning, procurement and contract management

  • Evidence-based diagnostic of skills and capability gaps, giving the council confidence in where to prioritise its investment

  • Engaged existing staff in development and implementation of changes

About Us

Human Engine is a Financial Times top-ranked management consultancy with specialisms in strategy, change, digital, commercial and projects.  

It was founded in 2018 with a belief that the public sector deserves better than it gets from traditional consulting firms – more human, more personal and more knowledgeable of the reality of delivering modern public services.

We have worked with dozens of public sector organisations to help transform their strategies, operations and cultures to be more agile, commercial and entrepreneurial in order to achieve financial sustainability and improved outcomes for customers and communities. 

Our mission is to help individuals and organisations to do the best work of their lives.  We do this by blending first-hand experience of the problems we help our clients solve with award-winning consulting expertise and an approach based on trust, collaboration and partnership. 

For more information, find us on LinkedIn or 

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