Welcome to Wrekin Consulting

Providing the expertise you need to achieve business contracts that create better terms for you and your customers.

What we do.

Pre Sales Support

We take on roles as either Directors or subject matter experts to assist organisations to deliver projects or fulfil interim requirements to train your team in pre-sales.

Joint Areas

As with all areas of sales, responsibilities are often fluid. Wrekin Consulting can provide expertise in project government as well as bid qualification and support.

Commercial Services

We work as problem solvers with your team to analyses the issues, take forward ideas and continue to grow the business when our assignment is finished.

Who Are Wrekin Consulting?

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Experienced and successful Contacts/Commercial Director, leading large scale Business Process Outsourcing, IT Outsourcing and Business Transformation / Seperation opportunities together with large capital installation projects in both private and the public sector.

Graeme Sloan - Managing Director

Latest Blog Entries

Read our latest insights on procurement, outsourcing and contract negotiation.

Wrekin Consulting appointed to the Digital Outcomes and Specialists 5 framework

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We are delighted to announce, that Wrekin Consulting has been appointed to the Digital Outcomes and Specialists 5 framework. The framework will run from January 2021 for 12 months.

Now in its fifth iteration, the DOS framework has transformed the way the public sector commissions digital services – it is a simple, effective, and fast way for public sector organisations to buy, design, build and deliver bespoke digital solutions and services using an agile approach. This supports the delivery of the Government Digital Strategy, by giving buyers easy access to suppliers with the right capabilities, providing a flexible and speedy route to meet customers’ digital project commissioning requirements.

Wrekin Consulting will be providing services via lot 2 for Digital Specialists.  Lot 2 Digital specialists provide government departments with individual specialists to deliver a specific outcome with defined deliverables on a service, programme or project. These include business analysts, cyber security specialists, project managers, developers, technical architects, user researchers and many others.

We are delighted to have obtained a place on the DOS framework which will enable us to continue to provide a broad range of customers with digital expertise.

Further information  

If you would like more information on how to procure through any of Wrekin Consulting’s frameworks, please contact info@wrekinconsulting.com

 

Why do RAID logs harm negotiations? And how can RADIO improve them?

 

Radio logo 01Let me first define what RAID logs are.
They are Risks Assumptions Issues and Dependencies logs

Where did they come from?
They came about from competitive tendering through the Local Government Acts of 1988 and 1992. Commercial organisations suddenly realised they were taking on many additional risks through outsourcing of services that they had no previous experience of, and which had not been as well-documented as they should have been. Therefore, RAID logs arrived and have subsequently become part of Prince 2 and Agile project methodologies. They are intended to identify all of the risks, assumptions etc. arising in a project so that there will be no unpleasant surprises for the board as the project progresses.

 

How are they used?
They are used in such a way as to mitigate against negotiation. RAID logs stand very much in oppostition to the well-understood concepts of a ‘win-win’ negotiation and ‘growing the pie’ for both parties. This is because commercial managers/ lawyers/ project managers/ finance managers strive to minimise the risks they will have to assume, based on such logs, and so set up clear boundaries in any proposal or contract which, in effect, reduce the pie for everyone. They actively hunt for ways to charge for extra work, should any limit be breached; they concentrate on excluding risks from bids and they make tenders subject to certain performance assumptions. They may also create dependencies upon customers or even exclude specific issues. It is all extremely harmful and, while it may be designed to deliver certainty, it can cause resentment and a sense that it is not so much a partnership, rather, an abusive relationship.

There is no doubt that RAID logs can be used to enhance the profitability of a project. I have seen instances where bidders have internally identified significant gains (20-30%) through changes arising from the RAID log, even before contracts are signed. But at what cost to the relationship?

Why is this a problem?
It creates a culture of conflict “Oh! We did not do that because we were dependent upon you, it’s now going to cost you an additional X”. It does not take too many such events for the parties to start to retreat and take adversarial positions.
Government has recognised that any change requires the organisation to control the ‘people’ elements of the process such as:
• a reluctance to deliver bad news;
• an over-optimistic view of what can be done by when;
• overconfidence in fore-casting (often based on historical evidence that is unlikely to hold true in an unknown future environment);
• narrowing of risk assessments;
• sponsor confirmation bias that enables the dismissal of data contrary to their position;
• ability to ignore red flags and just push on to “get it done”;
• potential for groupthink to take hold and reduce inputs into decision-making.
This is why the Government has determined to improve the skills and qualifications of its commercial cohort.

What can be done to improve the situation by using a RADIO log?
We have talked about the risk of groupthink and this is very valid as the activities associated with a RAID log principally focus on everything that could go wrong. The intention is identify risks and pass them off to the other party or a subcontractor; to make all offers conditional on many assumption; to highlight issues and encourage the project to be managed by avoidance as well as placing as many dependencies as possible upon the customer. This is all very damaging and, if we are to avoid groupthink and its negative consequences, we must change the the way the group thinks.

The “O” in RADIO stands for Opportunities and requires team members to record any possibilities for additional revenue or customer satisfaction in the log. For example, this could consist of the potential to grow the offered service into a sibling site or other geography and there are, of course, many more. Once recorded in the log, they can be followed up by the most suitable person in the organisation for evaluation and action.

Adding opportunities and thus creating a RADIO log will help to create a positive attitude in the project team and lessen the inherent negativity. Individuals will no longer be required to focus on hunting down problems but will also be asked to consider and capture the opportunities they provide. The introduction of other people to the team (product managers/sales/marketing) will change the dynamics as these individuals can be more positive in their outlook and less risk-averse than the customary members of a RAID log team (lawyers/commercial/project managers/finance managers).

It is time to stop using the RAID log as a means to transfer risk to the other party and consider instead a model that pursues the active participation of both parties to the contract. A cloud-based portal would enable all parties to collaborate in a shared workspace and work together on reducing the risks, assumptions, dependencies and issues while jointly exploiting the opportunities.

If you are interested in finding out about this please follow this link.

 

Disaggregation of Contracts is the way ahead!

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HM Government advised Departments (following the Ocean Liner report in 2016) that they should move away from the traditional large and complex IT outsourcing contracts towards multi-vendor, disaggregated environments together with in-sourcing where appropriate and adopting a cloud-first principle.

Great, what do we do?

Disaggregation is complex and, as with all complex activities, it takes time and, more importantly knowledge.

As a minimum, view it as a business change activity.  This requires:

  • the right allocation of responsibilities and governance;
  • identification of the skills and capabilities you require to disaggregate to operate in the new world model;
  • a programme plan that captures the present situation and then maps the way forward through clear stages to the new world;
  • creation of a real-time risk register from day one.

Principles to be guided by:

  1. A business case that shows a full analysis of the options available to your organisation which should encompass the vision of the institution for its future IT requirements, for example, a needs analysis or service requirement by the department;
  2. You should have some form of gated procedure similar to HM Treasury Green Book for developing such a business case: as the maturity develops, so does the plan.
  3. Understand scale and pace and what is achievable in the time. It is unlikely that existing Contracts will end in a time frame that is convenient for your new approach;
  4. Do not re-invent the wheel. If you can acquire items through a Framework, do so. The time and delay of going to market for something available via a Framework is unlikely to be cost-efficient;
  5. Enable separation of services at future dates by contracting for discrete services, allowing you to terminate individual elements;
  6. Document ownership and management of data, especially where it is to be processed or stored. Ensure the US Patriot Act is taken into account if you intend to use a service provided by a US entity;
  7. Understand where and who is responsible for risk, liability and indemnities. It is wise to create a flow diagram of the process, identify who is accountable for each stage and how they hand off to another provider. You can then overlay the risk and liability profile for each step to identify gaps:
  8. Be clear who is responsible for the variation for each variable. For example, having to ring a help desk to change a password could incur a charge however this becomes a licence to print money if the supplier forces many changes on the organisation for “good security” reasons;
  9. Do not let the exit provisions be an afterthought. They must be detailed and agreed pre-signature, while you still have the power in the negotiation.

Programme Management and Governance

The team must be multi-disciplinary with subject matter experts in the appropriate field. For example, if it is an IT project you will need team-members from:

  • IT
  • Commercial
  • Project Management
  • Legal
  • HR

Base Line

Start by establishing a baseline. Your incumbent may not be happy to assist you; therefore, you will need to be prepared.

How do you prepare?

One approach would be to audit the Contract and all the change notes.  This will identify if:

  1. they have been fulfilling their obligations;
  2. if they have been doing more than required, this will help in future negotiations.

Wrekin Consulting can help with this through the utilisation of iPad technology and Contract Audit ®. You upload the Contract and all the change notes (it takes approximately 8 seconds to input a 120-page Word Document) the solution separates the Contract into its obligations. You allocate each obligation to the appropriate member of the team and this provides a worklist for them to discover if each obligation is being met. If they use an iPad, they can take pictures or upload documents as evidence of what they find out.

Initial discussions

Once you have the baseline established, you can set about designing the next stages and the various negotiation plans.

The first negotiation will be with the incumbent to decide how you will disaggregate the service.

You may think there are three principle choices for which you need a negotiating plan:

  1. Assumes the incumbent will act reasonably and you can negotiate a clear exit and the necessary support for re-tendering exercises;
  2. Assumes the incumbent does not seek to help but performs according to the letter of the Contract;
  3. A mixture of 1 and 2 saying they will assist but, in fact, acting to frustrate the operation.

Unfortunately, Suppliers often see this as an opportunity to earn more from a client desperate to move away and from whom they are unlikely to make such revenues in the future. They are likely to say: “the contract only requires us to work with one replacement contractor; if you wish us to work with more, we require additional payment.”  You have to overcome the supplier’s incentive not to co-operate and to do that you need to prepare yourself with the tools to encourage their co-operation.

The Commercial team should set out a series of negotiation plans and gain approval for them before any such negotiations. Such plans would make heavy use of the discoveries in the baseline review.  If they are demanding more money, you could trade, for example, service credits for the non-delivery of x to encourage them to do it for free.

Problems you may face

Organisations are often unrealistic about the investment that will be required and what can be done or achieved in the time and fail to allocate enough time and effort in pre-tender analysis, design and planning.

First, start by re-using past investment analysis: how was this agreement awarded, was it successful or not, what were the problems?  Re-use the approach with appropriate amendments and learning from other projects.

Next, think in a different way. You have an idea of what the future could be like, but you cannot be sure.  One way to solve the problem is to find your newest graduates and give them the problem: tell them to treat it exactly like a piece of course work and ask them for arguments for and against all of the options based on many different types of solution.  I guarantee the way they will approach it and the solutions they will come up with will make you think.  If it does not, then ask them to do it again!

Your suppliers are often blind to the reality of risks and gaps in their bid proposals when responding to opportunities. What can you do to try and resolve this?

  • When conducting competitive dialogues, ask for a rough order of magnitude as you go along, not for consideration or evaluation. It allows you to check everyone is in the same ballpark and if what is being quoted is in line with the budgetary estimates;
  • You can reset bidders’ minds in the process. For example, when one bidder is three times as expensive as the others, they are an outlier. Why? They have never dealt with the company, but the other bidders have, they are taking an approach to risk that is not reasonable. Do not tell them they are three times as expensive but you can, with permission of the Approvals Board, say something like “I am obviously not describing the risks associated with this contract correctly as you are not on the same continent for pricing, please go away and review your dialogue notes and ask questions at the next dialogue session.”

As a Commercial, you wish to be fair to all parties and get the most competitive bids across the line at the end of the process. To do that you have to make the suppliers see the reality and ensure the tender does not leave any gaps and is crystal clear on the requirements.

An example that might help achieve this is the creation of a joint RADIO log. Have the supplier show you the risks they have identified. Add to that list your own perceived risks, assumptions, dependencies, issues and opportunities (RADIO).  Question them about how these are built into their project plan and are costed. If they do not materialise, then how do you share the cost-saving?

Lack of realism is often seen when transitioning away from legacy prime contracts, and the potential impacts this will have on the services. The audit suggested as part of the baseline will allow you to map all the obligations/tasks etc.  It will provide a picture of reality. You can then map this reality into your new world and see if there is a home for everything.

This action removes a frequent experience of organisations that design and delivery risks surface post-award when a crisis unfolds. Often the only option is to throw money at the problem as the supplier is saying it is not their responsibility and your organisation is suffering a publicity storm and reputational damage.

What should you do?

Learn from others’ mistakes

There was a large multi-national company whose Board wanted outsourcing, believing it would provide cost savings. Unfortunately, they experienced a lot of delay from the organisation as people did not want to lose their jobs. Eventually, the Board demanded action and the organisation outsourced its invoicing to organisation A and its accounts receivable to organisation B. Crisis ensued.  Organisation A issued the invoices but would not tell organisation B the details and organisation B would not disclose to organisation A who they had collected monies from. Both organisations claimed privity of contracts. The multi-national had to create a workaround until two change controls could be agreed.

Another large organisation sought to adopt a Service Integration and Management (SIAM) model for its IT organisation. It successfully awarded the Service Integration contract and TUPE’d its staff across to them. It then awarded the five pillars (data centre, network, end-user computing, back office software, front office software).  Unfortunately, now came the problem: the Service Integrator did not have the responsibility for standing up the pillars, just operating them. The organisation no longer had any staff capable of doing this as it had TUPE’d them. The Service Integrator agreed to do the work on condition they had no responsibility for delays, failures, cost overruns and that they were paid time and materials for the work of standing up the pillars at their full rates which were about twice the cost of the rates in the Contract.

Plan

We mentioned creating a Base Line earlier and it is from this that you should work. If you have captured every obligation and task in the existing provision of service, then you can map how they will be performed in the new world. More importantly, you can then work out were the demarcation takes place in the new world and the information/data/services that need to be transferred between the providers in detail. Then you can start upon drafting the schedules for the new tenders.

Unfortunately, many organisations fail to do the planning and start with the schedule drafting, running the tender and awarding the Contract and then discover problems as they try to disaggregate services. This inevitably causes problems with staff morale, as they suddenly find problems in doing their jobs. They also suddenly find that the problems are costing the organisation more in workarounds etc.

To quote the ancient phrase “fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Tasklist to a good disaggregation

  1. Document the vision of where you wish to get to. Compare it to other benchmarked solutions to give it a quick sniff test and ask if it is reasonable;
  2. Baseline where you are;
  3. Understand what the user experience of the staff affected will be in the future;
  4. Create a Risks, Assumptions, Dependencies, Issues and Opportunities (RADIO) log from day one;
  5. Discuss the next stages with the incumbent;
  6. Create the lots that the service is to be disaggregated into;
  7. Document clearly how the various lots will interact and the data flows and responsibilities necessary to make the new service work;
  8. Create the tender documents and run your tender;
  9. Consider sharing your RADIO with the potential suppliers and have them document how they would overcome the various elements and add their details;
  10. Review and evaluate the tenders and award the agreements;
  11. Start on the journey to disaggregation;

 

Talk to Wrekin Consulting: we can help you in each of these stages as we have tools and solutions that can be provided out of the box to help you achieve your aims.