I have spoken many times of my determination for the Civil Service to substantially improve the way we handle our commercial arrangements. This will deliver better public services for UK citizens and better value for money for the taxpayer.
The government spends around £44 billion each year on contracts with third-party providers. That money is used to deliver a vast array of important and often life-enhancing or life-saving goods and services.
These goods and services are underpinned by thousands of contracts and supplier relationships. We work with suppliers of all shapes and sizes, including SMEs. There are tens of thousands of staff across government involved in managing these contracts and relationships. For this reason, ensuring we have staff proficient in the design, negotiation and management of contracts is a priority across the Civil Service.
So, I am delighted that from 7 to 11 May we are holding a Civil Service-wide Commercial Awareness Week. You will hear more about this in your own departments, including details of webinars, events, intranet content, online training and more.
Widening the reach
How we manage contracts and relationships with suppliers will be a particular focus of the week. Often this work is done by staff involved in policy, operational delivery, project management, property, IT or other duties. Contract management is emphatically not just for those working in the commercial profession.
But because the day-to-day decisions made by colleagues in these roles have a significant impact on the effectiveness of our contracts and their costs, I want to see appropriately-trained staff managing all of our important contracts and supplier relationships. Therefore, we will be providing a major programme of training and development to support them with formal recognition of the professional standard that has been achieved.
Cross-government training for contract managers
The pace of change is picking up. Proof of this is the recent publication of the Contract Management Professional Standards. Importantly, these standards are for everyone who interacts with a supplier, whether as part of another ‘day job’ or as a full-time dedicated contract manager.
The standards offer a clear description of the skills and capabilities you need to make good decisions, as well as outlining what is expected of you in managing commercial contracts.
These are not just paper standards. Our intention is to provide training and development to support staff to meet and maintain them in practice.
In the coming months you can expect to receive more detailed information about available learning so you can decide when and how this support might apply to you. This will include information on the type of training available (which will depend on the scale of the contracts and supplier relationships you are involved in) and how you can track your progress. Register your email address to receive updates.
But use the Awareness Week in May to kickstart the improvement, boosting your commercial awareness and contributing to making us a brilliant Civil Service.
Commercial Awareness Week
As part of Commercial Awareness Week, you can register for a live webinar on Contract Management on 9 May. Or if you can’t make that date, register for a repeat of this session on 23 May.
Even if you aren’t involved in managing contracts and suppliers, we all have a role to play in getting the best out of our commercial activities. You can get a better understanding of that role by doing the free, online Commercial Awareness Course on Civil Service Learning.