Procurement Act: Are Your Negotiators Ready?

With the implementation of the Procurement Act in the UK, many public sector procurement managers are considering the training needs of their teams

As the UK prepares to implement the Procurement Act 2023 on 1 October, 2024, Andy Archibald, Senior Consultant at Scotwork UK, a leading provider of negotiation training and consulting services, shares his thoughts on what the new regulations will mean for negotiations in the public sector. Scotwork offers a range of negotiation programmes designed to enhance negotiation skills and capabilities for individuals and teams across various industries.

Andy has highlighted the importance of upgrading negotiation capabilities with a structured approach and a robust set of skills that will provide more confidence and control in future negotiations.

We sat down with Andy to discuss the opportunities and challenges that greater negotiation flexibility will bring to the public sector.

How is the Procurement Act expected to change the way the public sector negotiates?

By design, the aim of the Procurement Act is to simplify and modernise procurement processes, giving the public sector more freedom to negotiate better value agreements. Public sector teams will have more flexibility in their negotiations, allowing them to generate more diverse and potentially better outcomes.

What is the current uncertainty surrounding the Procurement Act’s impact on Scotland?

At this point, it’s unclear how, if at all, the Procurement Act will impact Scotland. Meanwhile, teams across the rest of the UK are busy figuring out what this means for their procurement processes and what changes are needed. It includes addressing the training and development needs of those who will play a significant role in the Act’s implementation, especially in terms of negotiation skills.

From your experience, does the new flexibility in negotiations present the key opportunities and challenges?

Greater flexibility in negotiations presents both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, it allows for more creative and value-driven agreements. On the other hand, it requires a solid understanding of negotiation processes to ensure that this flexibility leads to positive outcomes rather than giving away value for free.

The House of Commons passed the Procurement Act 2023 Bill with amendments on 13 June 2023

What critical questions should public sector negotiators ask themselves to ensure they are prepared?

Negotiators should consider the following questions:

  • Are concessions traded or is value given away for free?
  • Is there effective preparation ahead of planned negotiations, including a clear set of objectives, variables, and strategy? Or is the approach to wing it and let the other side go first?
  • Is the dialogue likely constructive, exchanging useful information by asking good questions and disclosing information? Or does it resemble an argument going around in circles?
  • When the other side is speaking, are they being listened to, looking for cues of flexibility from what they are saying and how? Or is an impatience to speak clouding the ability to listen properly?
  • Upon the presentation of a proposal, is it specific, credible, and realistic? Or are the other side left guessing as to what’s required?
  • Can the cues to conclude negotiations be recognised and value protected at the end of the process? Or are late demands that erode value likely to be given into?
  • Are all parties clear on what’s agreed upon with a robust implementation plan detailing responsibilities? Or are agreements vague and nonspecific, risking disputes during the agreement term?

What should teams do if they find their answers to these questions are unsatisfactory?

If the answer to any of these questions is the latter, it might be time to invest in negotiation training for your negotiators. Understanding the negotiation process and being well-prepared can provide better negotiations control and lead to more successful outcomes.

By preparing now and upgrading their negotiation capabilities, public sector procurement teams can ensure they are ready to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the new Procurement Act.

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