Network Services - a Framework too far?
It's a total shambles.
Been running (as a market engagement process) since May 2013 until the ITT released in Oct 2014 so CCS had ample opportunity to get the structure and terms in workable condition before issuing them to the supplier market.
Biggest issue seems to be uncommon lack of clarity and unnecessary levels of complexity regarding the supplier offerings, how they can be presented, priced and delivered and crucially how suppliers will be evaluated to get on the framework. Coupled with distinct lack of communication in terms of the Q&A and CCS inconsistencies in answering questions. Now over 840 questions on the list, many are duplicates because suppliers haven't had ongoing view of the questions already raised by others, and CCS actively encouraging multiple suppliers to raise questions in writing during the so called "Supplier Briefings" held in Oct and early Nov. Some questions have not been answered since the framework began accepting queries.
Having worked on the latest GCloud and Tech Services responses (all 3 x of these key frameworks released at the same time with coinciding deadlines too - another top bit of planning by CCS), I cannot understand the rationale why Network Services had to be so uber complicated. Both the other frameworks had a similar supplier community applying, however CCS made the submission process far more straight forward, and although there were Q&A for each, they were released in good time, at frequent intervals (and in Excel, not Just PDF) so suppliers could assimilate the clarification info and take on board in the response without too much drama.
So much for CCS being "SME-friendly" I doubt any SME company has found this framework to be a easy or positive experience, and may be put off bidding in future for any Govt work themselves.
There is a lot at stake in the supplier community to gain a place on Network Services - jobs may be lost if failure incurred - and while the engaged bid teams, technical resources and legal bods will be prepared to work the inevitable long hours/weekends/bank holidays as required (they always do), the reason for the anger on this is that working over Xmas/New Year should not have to be necessary in the first place. CCS have created this situation through basic lack of common sense and ongoing culture where suppliers are the enemy; always out to "rip off" the public sector (BTW most of us employed at suppliers are UK taxpayers) and therefore must be kept at arms length, even when our framework levies contribute to their overall funding.
Let us hope that CCS learn valuable lessons from how this framework has been conducted and take on board the feedback from suppliers and public sector buyers alike.