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What’s the secret to getting on the Network Services Framework (RM1045)?

22 April 2016

This is my story of how an SME braved the tender process to get on the Crown Commercial Service’s Network Services RM1045 Framework.

Ideal is a small business. We are cross-architectural Cisco specialists. We believe brilliant customer experience is what makes us special in a world of constantly poor service from technology companies - particularly for the public sector where expensive outsourced agreements with the IT giants have dominated the landscape during the last decade.

So I was keen to have the opportunity to prove how different things could be to customers in the public sector by submitting a tender to be included in the Network Services framework agreement (RM1045). this opportunity to bid to provide network and collaboration solutions on this agreement was unlikely to come round again for three or four years. But it felt daunting – I wasn’t sure where to start. After colleagues at Cisco encouraged me to submit an application and Ian Fishwick at Innopsis kindly offered me 10 minutes of his wisdom, I put a team together and decided to go for it.

Registering for the invitation to tender was just the start

Registering for the ITT was not too challenging but facing the stack of tender documents for the first time certainly was. When someone called me a ‘framework virgin’ I realised I might need help working out where to start.

Network Services was a MEAT (most economically advantageous tender) process and all the bid writing experience in the world could not prepare us for designing and pricing a solution blind against the scenario in each Lot.

Patience and practice paid off

Initially we had only four weeks to prepare our submission for three Lots. The repeated delays to the submission date provided the opportunity to practice over and over again as we answered hundreds of questions and the scenario requirements changed.

With no previous point of reference we were naïve to the uniqueness of this lengthy tender process and patiently carried piles of documents around, rewriting and recalculating costs again and again.

All the hard work was worth it. Ideal are one of 60 suppliers who have been selected for the new Network Services framework and one of just 25 suppliers for Lot 2 Local connectivity, Lot 5 IP Telephony and Lot 8 Video conferencing.

If you’re thinking of applying next time, here’s what I learned

  • Be brave - you have to be in it to win it
  • Hold your ground – keep your eyes on the long term value when others can only see the risk of wasted resource rather than the potential value the framework would bring
  • Build a brilliant team to get the bid over the line - our Finance Director worked tirelessly to provide a competitive mandatory service offer and both solutions architects and service architects worked magic on designing services to meet each Lot’s requirements
  • Take advice from experts - procurement advice and advice from those who had conquered similar territory before was invaluable for us
  • Know the ITT back to front - and read every question and answer to understand what is required

How we’re going to deliver brilliant customer experience in the public sector

Our cross-architectural expertise will allow us to supply solutions across all 3 of these Lots. We will be working with customers over the next few weeks to understand what services they would want to buy with a direct award from the catalogue which will be published on the technology catalogue on the Government eMarketplace. This is designed to provide a dynamic, flexible and quick route to market. As an agile Cisco partner focused on delivering excellence we think we can act quickly to help customers benefit from this new opportunity to purchase solutions in this way.

And we will be working hard to build on our proven experience helping our existing customers in local government and education so we can develop new relationships and provide others with innovative, high quality, good value network and collaboration services.

Find out more about Ideal's public service solutions and expertise


Image credit: Rosmarie Voegtli/Flickr, Creative Commons