about

Picture of Mark Allen from Qualitar

Qualitar Consulting was founded in 2003. We are a direct, straightforward and plain speaking lot, who cut through consultancy ‘noise’ to identify and realise value that really matters for our clients. What did you expect, we’re from Yorkshire, North Yorkshire! The breadth and depth of our procurement experience and expertise is deliberately broad and general, rather than narrow and niche. Clients benefit considerably from the value that emanates from this wide-ranging cross pollination of experiences, ideas and innovation.

 

I’m Mark Allen. Prior to co-founding Qualitar my working life started with Midland Bank, now NatWest, on a fast track programme to become a bank manager. It wasn’t hugely stimulating so off I went to run depots selling bearings and power transmission products. Then on to HQ to help manage, support and influence the procurement activities of two PLCs, reporting to the purchasing director and managing director respectively. Next up was the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply’s (CIPS). I spent four immensely satisfying and successful years working with a great team, headed by Ken James, CIPS Business Development Director and then CIPS Chief Executive, to develop commercial training and consultancy services around the world. Time and interests move on, and so I spent the next two years helping to set up a procurement consultancy within a specialist procurement recruitment company. I have an MBA from Cranfield University’s School of Management.

 

Procurement assignments

Clients of all shapes and sizes come from the public, private and not-for-profit realms. We appear to dwell somewhat on public sector procurement, as it poses many interesting challenges, from a procurement and a tendering perspective. Done well, this is immensely satisfying and rewarding. These are some assignments that give a snapshot of clients and assignments. 

  • Facilities Management - in complex circumstances we supported a large urban local authority to award a Soft FM contract quickly, through a third-party framework agreement. This included pre-tender consultation with interested suppliers, a suite of tender documents that minimised uncertainty/risk premiums, an accurate price/should cost model, an evaluation process and criteria, leading the evaluation process and recording the results. The authority used the same approach for a Hard FM contract and then asked us to audit their procurement, in particular the tender evaluation, to validate the results. For the next six months we supported the mobilisation, start-up and implementation of both contracts, for more than 90 buildings, with an emphasis on developing effective working relationships. This enabled the client to pursue and sustain a collaborative, open and performance orientated relationship with the successful suppliers.
  • Refuse and recycling collection - when prices were going up we enabled a local authority to spend £1,500,000 less than budgeted for the collection of household refuse and recycling. This included supporting the complete end-to-end procurement process, along with clarifications and contract award. We developed a procurement strategy, formulated a user friendly suite of tender documents, evaluation criteria and process, a tender price/should cost model, led the evaluation, recorded the results and finalised the contract along with all correspondence. The price model was particularly useful, as it was to the lowest practical level of detail which allowed us to model different scenarios and cost drivers pretty accurately, establish likely prices and evaluate each specific price element from tendered prices.
  • Foster care and children’s residential care - we devised a two pronged strategy for a County Council. First, a comprehensive spend data analysis with should cost price modelling to inform intermediate negotiations, which achieved a £600,000 cost reduction. Second, the formulation of a procurement strategy and a suite of tender documents for a group of Councils, which enabled them to combine demand and resources to collaboratively procure children’s foster and residential care services. In addition, we led several negotiations for the supply of high value high cost specialist services for a handful of children
  • Managed procurement service - to supply a very well known large national charity with an all encompassing procurement advice and support service for three years. Each department received advice and active hands-on support, including knowledge transfer, to help them buy more for less leaving the charity more to spend on charitable objectives. Amongst the many value add and cost saving examples, we negotiated and awarded a contract that reduced the cost of recruiting and employing temporary and permanent employees by more than £500,000 a year.
  • Spend data analysis - good examples, from the many we have done, include those we did for a large energy-from-waste plant, a housing agency and one of the largest local authorities in the UK. When analysing spend data, we first consider the quality of the data, including consistency and accuracy before identifying patterns and validating specific purchases with agreed commercial terms. Just from our analysis we were able to point the large energy-from-waste plant towards the potential to save more than £1,000,000 a year, from less than a third of their total spend. The large local authority was an interesting case, as they’d had a well known spend analysis software company analyse their data. However, they just couldn’t use the results. They asked us if we could help. Unfortunately, the results were so confusing that we had to start again. Poor service, but also poor initial procurement, a double whammy.

Whilst this is all good stuff, it is worth reiterating that, we start with those you intend will benefit and what will satisfy their needs, in terms of outcomes. That’s because if you don’t satisfy beneficiaries needs then it doesn’t much matter how clever your procurement or how much or little you have spent, put simply you’ve failed. 

 

Some of what we do …

We select tools and processes best suited to improve your specific circumstances. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Outcomes formulation
  • Governance structure, process and operation
  • Procurement strategies (organisational, project and contract)
  • Performance frameworks, monitoring and improvement
  • Augmented spend data analysis
  • Price models, modelling and dynamics
  • Tender document formulation, e.g. specifications and ITTs
  • Evaluation questions, criteria, process and scoring
  • Contract performance improvement
  • Validation audits, e.g. tender evaluation, contract performance and relationships
  • Critical friend support and feedback
  • Productivity improvements
  • Category strategies/management
  • Dispute resolution
  • Procurement organisation/capability review

We can’t leave procurement without mentioning our singular enthusiasm for outcomes, relationships, spend analysis, price models and training, which we really enjoy, particularly when people develop and refine their skills within the context of a specific project or procurement.  

 

Tendering assignments

We receive regular requests to help existing and new clients improve their tender win rate. By definition this entails helping them ...

... to persuade and convince, with a competitive tender, members of an evaluation panel that this tender will, relative to all other tenders, acheive the most valuable outcomes at an affordable cost.

We combine insights from our comprehensive understanding of procurement with our experience and expertise of formulating tenders, for clients and ourselves. These different perspectives and perceptions enable us to support clients to formulate empathetic answers to tender questions. 

  • Foster care tender - direct hands-on advice, help and support for a small local foster care agency to return a much more impactful and competitive tender than they would have otherwise. Our input included coaching, insights into the buyer’s perspective, chunking up tender questions, understanding emphasis, research, outline structures for answers, some writing and a lot of editing. This improved our client’s competitiveness which translated into a great result, way beyond their expectations, as they were awarded one of five tier one supplier contracts, the other four being with large national agencies. However, the best result was just how surprised they were to discover that what they thought was good was several levels below where we took them.

Can I just take this opportunity to say thank you very much for your help and input into this process. We approached you to help with this with some experience of submitting tenders – mostly successful but not 100% and I wasn’t sure how much extra you would add. It became clear very quickly how much you would add and how wide of the mark some of our approach had been in the past. Your knowledge and practical help has been immense, invaluable and very stimulating.

Your involvement helped us keep focused (or should that be made us keep focused!!) and your attention to detail really has put a professional polish on the work. You have been easy to work with (and I know we aren’t always!) and the whole experience has been enjoyable. This won’t be the last tender we have to do. I am sure we are much better equipped to tackle the next one on our own if necessary, we really have learnt that much; however I would much prefer to engage your services once again and draw on your help and support once more to make our submission as good as it possibly can be.

I am extremely pleased with the final submission and once again thank you very much." Director of operations 

  • Dermatology services tender - we were asked by a GP practice manager, at pretty much the last minute, to help formulate a competitive tender. This was full on with little time for subtleties for services way outside our comfort zone. Plus the practice manager was convinced we wouldn’t really be able to help. This was one of our most challenging assignments. To enable our client to return a competitive tender we compressed and accelerated each element of our intervention, chunking up tender questions, research, outline structures for answers, and a lot of writing and editing. This culminated in working through the final night, finishing at around 4am, in time to return the tender that morning. The result, our comprehensive, way beyond all reasonable expectations, support enabled a group of GPs to out-compete Virgin Care to win a contract for dermatology services.

Thank you for your support and expert assistance during our recent successful tender bid process. We found you easy to work with and your calm and reassuring manner was much needed in a rather fraught and limited time process. You have obviously got a great deal of experience in this field and led us by the hand towards a quality finished submission. Your attention to detail was second to none and we appreciated your willingness to be available at short notice and during ‘non-working’ hours. We would happily recommend your services to anyone else going through a similar process.” GP practice manager

  • Catering tender - we used a live tender as a vehicle to improve the ability of a Council’s in-house catering team to tender competitively, against many private sector suppliers, for school meal contracts, in their area and surrounding areas. A four phase programme and a ‘guide on a page’ underpinned the approach. Despite the tight time frame, people worked together much more as a team, rather than a collection of individuals, to formulate a competitive tender. Unfortunately, they were not successful, but the resulting feedback was valuable. However, over the next few tenders they continued to improve, just missing out, but continuing to use feedback to further develop their expertise and refine their approach.

As the last example shows, not all assignments immediately bear fruit, sometimes it takes a little time, care and nourishment to grow. Depending on your starting point, it requires a not inconsiderable effort to develop to the point where your tenders will compete at the same level as the very best. 

 

 

PS: Please get in touch using info@qualitar.co.uk and/or 0844 5611232. We are enthusiastic fans of quick informal chats, at least to start with, to talk through whatever is on your mind.