Sunday, 23 August 2015

Weathering the storm of justifying the need to buy at all

We are told the BBC are progressing through a tender process which means they will break their 93 year relationship with the Met Office since the Met Office haven't got through to the final stages. Already the advocates of a continuing BBC/Met relationship have started to cry this is bad value - the UK weather just can't be understood by 'foreign forecasters'!

It seems strange that critics of the likley procurement outcome refuse to recognise that if weather forecasting is a science, then suitably qualified forecasters, regardless of their origin, should be able to predict objectively.

I can only assume that the BBC have been following a robust, transparent and objective process. Have the Met Office been complacent in their bidding or are there genuinely better qualified competitors? If they want to throw stones at the BBC's procurement process would the critics not have been better to have criticised the selection process prior to its commencement. Perhaps the BBC should have carried out some stakeholder engagement in the process earlier and brought the advocates to the status quo with them.

Having said that, it seems logical that the Met Office would want the freedom to compete to deliver weather forecasts to other boardcasters too, without being subjected to nationalistic loyalty.  Why can't the defenders of the status quo recognise that for the Met Office to do that there has to be open competition.

However, my question is not about whether or not the weather forecast should be provided by the Met Office or not. Nor is my question about the selection and award criteria. or indeed its robustness.

To me there is a much more basic question, specifically the need for the BBC to spend money on providing a weather forecast at all. A lot has changed in 93 years. There are now so many sources of weather forecast open to the public, for example, apps on a smart phone tailored to specific locations. Just because there has been a 93 year history of the BBC providing weather forecasts doesn't justify a further 93 years of need to for the BBC to provide weather forecasts! But isn't that a common problem is procurement; a contract is due to expire so we need to relet. Wouldn't procurement improve its contribution and value by asking the much more relevant question: "Do we need to buy this at all?"

Thursday, 13 August 2015

3 simple lessons when relying on reports

The Kids Co demise has been well documented and some of the lessons for procurement have already been drawn out by Peter Smith, for example, the need for contract management and sufficient reserves. However, today we have learnt that two separate  'independent' reports were cited as evidence of the good work of Kids Co which we can also learn from.

The reports were cited by Kids Co and probably swayed some funders decision making. I would suggest that perhaps funders may well have been naive and that those who based decisions on 'evaluations' need to look much more deeply before being influenced.

The first question worth asking was 'who funded the report'? Well one of the reports was funded by Kids Co and the other appears to have had Kids Co covering the costs. It's not unreasonable to see the potential conflict of interests.

Next, 'what was the purpose of the report'? Neither of these reports appear to have been outcome evaluation reports or indeed value for money reports. One was written by a Professor and leading psychologist who benefited from studying "the language of love". The second focused on the children who used the services of Kids Co.  The reports may well have been fit for purpose but that purpose was not one of commercial due diligence.

Thirdly, 'what was the approach to ensuring rigour'? I could be wrong, but neither of these reports seem to have been subjected to peer review which would have considered the research approach, reliability and validity.

Those three simple tests may have shone the spotlight on the weaknesses of relying on the reports. While it is easy to see the weaknesses we also need to reflect on those same points within a procurement environment, for example, when commissioning reports, when drawing on reports as part of a bid evaluation process, when taking the advice of 'independent' experts particularly in preparation of specifications. Caveat emptor as they say.