Richard:Welcome to today's NSF podcast from Innopsis. My name's Richard Barnes. I'm one of the Director's at Innopsis.

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague, Kelvin Prescott and I, talked about the proposed replacement for NSF and the process, which Crown Commercial Service and are running, to engage with industry.

Today, I am joined by another Innopsis Director, Mike Thomas. First of all, happy birthday, Mike! It's Mike's birthday, today.
Mike:Thanks Richard, another year, another Framework
Richard:Crown Commercial Service and Innopsis have been running some early engagement sessions with industry to consider the replacement for network services frame work. I was at one of these sessions, in London, a couple of weeks ago. Mike, I think you've been at all of the sessions, which, have been running over the last two or three weeks. Is that right?
Mike:Yes Richard. Innopsis have hosted three events, in London, Leeds and Norwich for the Crown Commercial Service, or CCS.

The events were to introduce the replacement procurement vehicle for the Network Services Framework, or RM1045 as it is known.

RM1045 encompasses a wide range of services from Connectivity, such as Wide Area Networks, Internet Access, Cloud Connection, Software Defined Networking, Local Area Networks including Wi-fi, Voice services such as Calls and Minutes, Telephone systems, IP Telephony services, SIP Trunks, Mobile Voice and Data, Paging systems, Video Conferencing, Audio Conferencing and Integrated Communications such as Skype for Business etc. The list goes on.

The current Framework expires in July 2019, therefore the replacement vehicle needs to be stood up in Quarter 1 2019 in order that there is continuity in line with CCS’s policy. The Supplier Briefings have been arranged so that Suppliers can talk with CCS about how the existing Framework can be improved as whilst RM1045 has been successful, it could have been better.
Richard:Excellent. Before we talk about the replacement for NSF, Mike, I think it would be worth, just touching, very briefly, on some of the successes of NSF version one and potentially some of the key challenges, which industry and customers have experienced, when dealing through NSF. I think there was some analysis that suggested that we've written about three hundred million pounds worth of revenue through the framework, so far. That's after a little under three years and there were some projections, which suggested that it would probably grow to be worth about 250 million pounds a year, as it approaches its close. So, I think that gives some indication to Innopsis members about the potential prize on offer for being listed as a supplier on the replacement for NSF.

What are some of the key challenges, which industry and customers do you think, Mike, have been identifying about dealing through NSF version one?
Mike:Good question Richard. After all, if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

Let’s look at some of the issues faced by Networks Services.

Firstly, let’s consider the Lots. There has been some confusion over what is included in the Lots and what isn’t. RM1045 has the concept of a core service to each Lot with ancillary services relating to that service also contained within the Lot. Therefore, if a Customer wants to buy a service related to say, Mobile Voice and Data, like Mobile Device Management, he must buy handsets and airtime at the same time. Similarly, a network protection service, like DDoS, can only be procured if the customer buys core service of connectivity at the same time.

Secondly, Whilst the concept of Direct Awards where Suppliers spin up Offers, often in demand to customer requirements has worked very well, reducing the procurement costs to both Public Sector and Industry, the mechanism for managing those offers was badly executed. The catalogue tool used is inflexible, complicated to use and practically impossible to search for services.

Thirdly, the selection criteria used to gain a place on the Framework was set too low and without context. The result was that Suppliers used pricing for a service they hoped no-one would buy as the cheapest components were used to gain the cheapest prices. There was little measure taken of quality

These are just three examples of issues that we are seeking to improve.
Richard:I think that was one of the main issues, which we all encountered, last time, was when we were competing for places on the original version of NSF, was how to be assessed. And, how much of the lot had to be covered by any given supplier. And I think some of the assessment criteria drove, some undesirable behaviour, shall we say, when people were bidding. And I know that's been a topic of discussion. What is CCS going to do? What is Innopsis going to work with CCS to do, to try and avoid that happening, this time around , Mike?
Mike:Yes Richard, the competition to gain a, place for each Lot needs to take very careful consideration of how winning Suppliers achieve a place.

I would suggest that the Public Sector would like to see a range of Suppliers for each Lot. From the small to the large, from specialist organisations providing niche services to the low-cost providers. If Network Services 2 has Lots with Suppliers all of one type, then Customers may choose to go elsewhere to get the services they want.

The difficulty is that with a Framework, there must be a competition to gain a place as a Supplier to a Lot. Traditionally it has been a competition covering all services within a Lot, which tends to favour larger suppliers. The aim is to demonstrate that the Suppliers in a Lot are competent to deliver the services within that Lot.

With RM1045, the concept of a Core Service was put into place and the scenario for that competition was extremely simple, for example for Lot 1 it is Connection between a Site and a centrally hosted service (e.g. in the cloud), enabling the consumption of those central services by users at the Site or A point-to-point data-only connection between customer sites.
Given the simplistic definition, there are many, many solutions that can provide the service. If you run a price competition on services that meet the criteria, then you end up with providers that will allow the cheapest components to be used for the example and hope that no-one would ever order them.

In addition, if you consider the supplementary services that could be offered, such as Satellite, Security Access Control and Co-Lo capabilities. Being a low cost consumer focused ADSL provider might get you on the Lot, but provides no evidence that you are a capable provider of the Supplementary Services.

The combination of Lots, Services within those Lots and the contest to gain a place is something which I think will challenge both CCS and Industry to get right.
Richard:Absolutely. And the session that I was at, ten days, two weeks ago, that figured high on the discussion, um, with a lot of voices from industry, raising and debating that point. So what activities are we now planning, specifically, in order to address that?Absolutely. And the session that I was at, ten days, two weeks ago, that figured high on the discussion, um, with a lot of voices from industry, raising and debating that point. So what activities are we now planning, specifically, in order to address that?
Mike:With the last of the Supplier Briefings taking place, we now need to move into focused workshops to try and get an Industry view of what the Lots should be, what services should be included within each Lot and typical examples of what the Public Sector buy in those Lots. This work will then be presented to CCS, ahead of the procurement starting, for their consideration.

We want to get a view across Industry, where we agree, where we disagree, we want to be completely open on each of the areas.
With the last of the Supplier Briefings taking place, we now need to move into focused workshops to try and get an Industry view of what the Lots should be, what services should be included within each Lot and typical examples of what the Public Sector buy in those Lots. This work will then be presented to CCS, ahead of the procurement starting, for their consideration.

We want to get a view across Industry, where we agree, where we disagree, we want to be completely open on each of the areas.
Richard:And what kind of time scales are we working to, Mike, to make sure that this is all thought through, fully?
Mike:On the basis that the procurement process will start in September, we need to be able to deliver all Industry input by mid-August at the very latest, earlier if possible. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll be working over the summer to get this done.
Richard:We're all used to that, aren't we?
Mike:Indeed, At least it looks like we might get Christmas off according to CCS’s timetable
Richard:Selling into the public sector, you never get both summer and Christmas off, do you? Not in my recollection anyway.

So, what do listeners need to do to ensure that they are engaged in that process and become part of it?
Mike:The first thing to make sure of is that you are on our mailing list in order that we can let you know what’s happening. With the advent of GDPR, everyone on our mailing list needs to provide permission in order for us to send you emails. I would urge that you ensure that you are listed and have provided permission. If you want to make sure, then check the link at the bottom of one of our emails or visit our home page where the link is provided. If you don’t want to receive emails from us, then keep an eye on our webpage or look out for tweets or check out our Facebook feed.

Invites to the first sessions will be sent before the end of May.
Richard:But, we're anticipating that those will be quite heavily subscribed. I won't say over subscribed, but we're expecting a lot of industry to involved. Aren't we, Mike? Because, I've been surprised, pleasantly surprised at how many people have attended the workshops, which we've been running so far, which you mentioned. Do you know, how many companies and attendees, do you think we've had so far, over the last three events?
Mike:I would estimate that we have had about 120 companies involved so far. Every organisation is going to be pitching from their own particular viewpoint, therefore I’d recommend being involved.

CCS have stated that they want this Framework to last a fixed term of 4 years. If you miss the opportunity to get a place, then it will make it much more difficult to grow your Public Sector business over that period. Note that the value of business passing through the Framework over its life span is estimated to be £5 billion,

Whilst we have no guarantees that CCS will agree with us, or they will be able to provide what we suggest, unless we tell them our thoughts, they can’t consider them.
Richard:So, it seems like the appetite is there from industry, to get involved in this, which suggests that we're all understanding the importance of this vehicle. How aligned are we with CCS? How joined up are we, with them, going through this process?
Mike:I would say we're very joined up. We are working very closely together as we have the same goal; to make the replacement framework better than RM1045. We are attending each other’s sessions and sharing information. Obviously, that will reduce once the formal procurement is underway, but we will still be lobbying to achieve improvements.
Richard:So, we talked about the structure of the vehicle and we talked about how it might be assessed. Other topics that were certainly quite vociferously discussed, at the session that I attended, was about the use of the new standard core T's and C's. Are we planning any further consultation with industry about insuring that those new T's and C's are appropriate for our services, our markets and this vehicle, specifically?
Mike:Absolutely. We have committed to review all the newly release model terms with regard to the appropriateness for telecoms and network services. This feedback will be collated and returned to CCS before the start of the procurement. Some items may not be able to be changed, but we need to ask and we need to provide CCS with the implications if the terms are adopted.
Richard:So, the other thing, the other topic of conversation that I've been involved in, in this area is specifically on the catalogue. There's been a lot of discussion about the appropriateness, or shortfalls, of the existing catalogue for NSF and what the future catalogue might look like, um, what discussions have you been having with CCS on that, Mike?
Mike:There have been a number of discussions on this topic. The ground-breaking introduction of Direct Awards within RM1045 was diminished by the use of the existing catalogue. I understand why it was used; to reduce the time to market, to reduce the cost of implementing a catalogue, but it has many shortcomings which are hoped to be addressed.

The first issue is that it is extremely user unfriendly for both Suppliers and Customers. Customers find it difficult to search for services and suppliers find it difficult to upload their services, also suppliers can’t see the customer view, so ensuring the right information is displayed is difficult. On top of that, unlike the Digital Market Place, suppliers cannot see each other’s offers. This helps drive competition and helps keep suppliers honest.

Work is going ahead at CCS to build a new on-line catalogue. Innopsis are helping to provide a Decision Tree which will help customers search for services. The idea is that, like an on-line shopping site, you will be able to filter on the services you want to buy. To start the choices may be fairly wide, but it will narrow down into either services to buy from the catalogue or suitable suppliers and the frameworks they are on. The concept is to provide the kind of qualification Suppliers undertake with a Customer to determine the suitable services to meet their needs. Some requirements may be too complicated to meet from a catalogue, in which case suitable suppliers will be listed.

There are other enhancements being discussed, but this is one we can influence now,
Richard:Absolutely. Because, as you say, the existing catalogue, it sounds impressive, but it simply isn't. And we've got to help customers and suppliers sift through the various offers, so that customers can buy on a fair, but relatively straight forward, basis.
Mike:Indeed, and for the first time, we are suggesting the catalogue is designed from the customer point of view and not the Framework. We believe that the customer should identify the type of services required in the first instance. Only then, should the Framework be listed. Some services may appear on different Frameworks. The customer can then decide the most appropriate route for procuring the service.
Richard:Excellent. So for people listening to this podcast, Mike, what should they be doing right now, to get themselves involved in the process, or to be getting ready to get involved in the process?
Mike:I would suggest visiting our website where information is and will be posted on Network Services 2. The issues raised from the workshops will be posted, but the CCS slides are available to download, and the model T&C’s are available now to download and read.

It will help to make progress if attendees to the workshops can make themselves aware of the information that is available before they arrive. This will help

The activities will be open to members as well as non-members.
Richard:Excellent. Well on that message, I think we'll draw this podcast to a close. For documentation and the presentations which have been used by Innopsis and CCS, so far, can be found in the show notes for this podcast and there's also a link on there to sign up to our mailing list. So, thank you very much for listening.
Mike:Thanks Richard

 

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