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A Comprehensive Guide to Crown Commercial Services (CCS) Frameworks for Management Consultancy (MCF4)

Written by Thornton & Lowe


Feb 27, 2024

As a supplier, navigating the complex landscape of public sector opportunities can often be daunting. However, with the right guidance and tools, your business can not only successfully win a place on lucrative public sector framework agreements, such as Crown Commercial Services (CCS) but also ensure they are a tool to generate and convert government contracts. Management Consultancy Framework Four (MCF4) is a key framework agreement that serves as a crucial resource for consultancies, professional services businesses and beyond.

Our comprehensive guide below provides details of CCS frameworks, focusing specifically on the Management Consultancy Framework Four (MCF4). Additionally, we provide expert insights on how to formulate successful bids for management consultancy services in the UK within the MCF framework.

Introduction to CCS Frameworks

Crown Commercial Services (CCS) frameworks are pivotal framework agreements between the government and suppliers, designed to streamline the procurement process for public sector organisations. For further information specifically focused on bid writing for CCS frameworks click here to view our blog on CCS bid writing. These agreements enable public sector procurement teams to acquire goods or services with trusted, compliant and pre-vetted suppliers, and for management consultancy, the CCS MCF Framework is a highly recommended and well-used route for engagement.

For management consultancy organisations intent on engaging with the public sector, an in-depth understanding of CCS frameworks is crucial. These frameworks are growing in popularity with over 70% of government spending going through them, but they are also still considered best practices. Therefore, securing a place on Crown Commercial Services Frameworks and the MCF agreement is an opportunity not to be missed.

CCS Management Consultancy Framework Four (MCF4)

A standout among these public sector procurement tools is the Management Consultancy Framework Four (MCF4), which serves as a conduit for public sector organisations to access a diverse range of cost-effective organisational consultancy services from a pool of adept suppliers.

Covering a broad spectrum of expertise, from business analysis and policy development to corporate finance and tax consultancy, business strategy to procurement, as well as health, social care, and infrastructure consulting, making it a cornerstone for organisational consultancy. MCF4 can offer a comprehensive suite of cost-effective management consultancy services, available to all central government departments and the wider public sector.

The Evolution of the MCF4 Framework

Building upon the success of its forerunner, the MCF3, the MCF4 is not new to the consultancy landscape. It has seen several key enhancements, such as the incorporation of the RM6269 Restructuring and Insolvency Agreement into a dedicated lot within the MCF4 framework, ensuring a seamless transition and broad scope.

The Scope of MCF4 Framework

The scope of the MCF4 framework reaches far beyond central government, touching an extensive public sector audience. Local authorities, healthcare entities, law enforcement, emergency services, educational bodies, non-profits, third-sector organisations, and housing associations all benefit from the economic impact assessment and other advantages provided by the MCF through the CCS framework.

Updates in the MCF4 Framework

Since its inception, the MCF4 framework, a pivotal element of the Crown Commercial Services Frameworks, has been enhanced to elevate its efficiency and effectiveness. The integration of the RM6269 Restructuring and Insolvency agreement as a standalone lot has fortified the offerings of MCF4. This framework agreement has also adeptly succeeded the MCF3, ensuring a seamless transition and sustained service excellence.

Structure and Specialisms of MCF4

Although the detailed lot structure and specialisms for the MCF4 are currently being crafted, the framework is being informed by comprehensive engagement with both customers and suppliers. It is set to offer advantages like a varied supplier base, encompassing SMEs to large firms, all with Cyber Essentials certification, as we detail further below. The MCF4 also provides diverse pricing models to accommodate different requirements, such as time and materials, fixed pricing, or a risk and reward strategy, making it a versatile framework agreement for both technical and procurement consultancy services.


The MCF4 process timeline extends from September 2023 to June 2025 and outlines crucial phases such as market engagement, internal governance, the tender period, evaluation, and the final awarding of the framework.

CCS MCF4 Updates

  • Commercial Model: The commercial structure of the MCF4 includes two separate rate cards (advice and delivery), six grades, an inflation clause, and a set of rules for expenses. Bidders should note that once the tender for the MCF begins, there is no room for negotiating the commercial terms.
  • Evaluation Criteria: The MCF framework's evaluation criteria are customised for each lot, with the price evaluation being evenly split between the advice and delivery rate cards. For instance, in Lot 1 (Business), the assessment heavily favours quality at 80%, with price and social value each accounting for 10% of the final score.
  • Certificates of Technical and Professional Ability (COTPA): Possessing COTPA certificates is an essential condition for participating in the MCF bidding process. Each lot has specific requirements for the number and value of certificates needed. For example, Lot 1 requires at least three COTPA certificates, each with a minimum value of £150k, reflecting the MCF's commitment to quality and compliance.

Gearing up for Bidding: MCF4

The CCS has actively organised supplier engagement sessions to illuminate the MCF4 market and demystify key government policies. These sessions are crucial for consultancies eager to understand the MCF landscape, with the most recent one in February 2024 offering an in-depth look at the CCS consultancy framework, an initiative that aligns with the goals of Consultancy Plus.

Understanding the Tendering Process

For suppliers intent on securing contracts under the MCF4 framework, proficiency in the tendering process is crucial. This includes a thorough comprehension of the stages involved, from pre-qualification (PQQ) or Selection Questionnaires (SQs) to invitations to tender, culminating in the contract award, which are all key components of successful project management within the MCF framework.

We have produced a comprehensive guide to Public Sector frameworks here.

Preparing for a Successful CCS Framework Bid

Successfully securing a spot on the MCF framework necessitates meticulous planning and a strategic approach. To boost your readiness for this competitive MCF bidding, here are some essential tips:

Research and Understand the Framework: A pivotal step in crafting a winning bid for MCF involves a thorough understanding of the MCF4. Conducting diligent research into its core requirements and staying updated with any changes to the framework is crucial for success.

Review Previous Tender Documents: Analysing previous MCF tender documents can provide valuable insights into the intricacies of the MCF bidding process. Equipped with this knowledge, you can fine-tune your proposal, enhancing your chances of securing a successful bid.

Prepare Certificates of Technical and Professional Ability: As previously discussed, grasping the nuances of COTPA is essential to navigating the MCF bidding landscape. It's wise to start compiling examples for these certificates early and ensure you meet the minimum value criteria for each lot you aim to bid on within the MCF.

Register on the CCS eSourcing Portal: All bids for the MCF4 are processed through the CCS eSourcingportal. If you're not yet registered, it's imperative to do so without delay to ensure you don't miss the opportunity to participate in the MCF.

Benefits of MCF4 Framework for Suppliers

By participating in the MCF4 framework, suppliers can reap numerous benefits, such as heightened visibility in the public sector and more efficient procurement processes, all within the scope of the MCF initiative.

  • Access to a wide network of public sector buyers
  • Standardised contractual terms and conditions
  • The MCF4 framework affords suppliers a variety of pricing models, including time and materials, fixed pricing, or risk and reward models, which accommodate different project requirements and corporate finance strategies.
  • Comprehensive customer guidance and templates for ease of use
  • Support from a dedicated and knowledgeable contract management team

Supplier Engagement in MCF4

The CCS has implemented an active supplier engagement strategy within the MCF4 framework, which encompasses sessions that provide prospective bidders with critical insights into government policies, thereby enriching the consultancy plus landscape and CCS consulting services.

Important Links and Timelines for MCF4

To keep up with the latest developments and track the progression of the MCF4 framework, suppliers can consult the Prior Information Notice (PIN) on the Find a Tender service. The contract notice and tender documents for the MCF initiative are currently in preparation and are expected to be released soon.

The MCF4 framework's timeline is set to unfold from pre-market engagement in September 2023 to February 2024, with the drafting of procurement documentation from March to July 2024. The publication of the Find a Tender notice is projected for August 2024, while the framework award date is awaiting confirmation.

Bid Writing for Management Consultancy: Top Tips

Crafting a compelling bid for management consultancy services within the MCF sector involves articulating your organisation's strengths in a way that resonates with the buyer's objectives. Essential strategies for a successful bid include a deep understanding of the management consultancy UK landscape and aligning your offerings with the buyer's vision.

1. Framework compliance is key: Ensure you submit a compliant bid. CCS has strict rules, terms and requirements which bidders have to accept in order to create a PASS and ensure success.

2. Understanding the buyer's needs: Before you begin your bid for MCF services, it's critical to thoroughly comprehend the buyer's requirements or the purpose of the framework, from the scope of work to the specific MCF evaluation criteria they will use to assess your proposal.

3. Clarity is paramount: Your MCF bid should be clear and easy to understand. Avoid using complex terminology and strive for concise, straightforward sentences that make your proposal accessible.

4. Provide proof of expertise: Enhance your MCF bid where possible with relevant case studies and testimonials that demonstrate your track record in offering exceptional management consultancy services. Preparing is therefore key and we work with many of our clients to help them prepare for key public sector frameworks such as MCF4. Evidence and content not used for framework compliance can be used within the mini-competitions or call-offs once you are successfully awarded onto the CCS framework.

5. Thorough review process: It's imperative to meticulously review your MCF bid, ensuring it is free from errors and maintains a consistent tone throughout, to present a professional and polished submission.

Our Ultimate Guide to Bid Writing for Professional Services provides further guidance on successfully bidding and tendering can be found here.

Cyber Essentials and Carbon Reduction Plans

Suppliers looking to participate in the MCF4 framework are required to have Cyber Essentials certification, showcasing their commitment to cyber security. Additionally, they must present Carbon Reduction Plans, which not only demonstrate their dedication to air quality management but also highlight their efforts in protecting against digital threats. This commitment is crucial, as it showcases your dedication to environmental impact assessment and ensures alignment with the government's sustainability goals within the MCF framework.

Resources to Improve Your Bid Writing Skills

Enhancing your bid writing expertise, we run monthly online bid writing workshops and bespoke bid writing training sessions, as well as our outsourced bid writing services. See our Professional Services Tender page here to find out more about our bid writing consultancy services.

Being confident you are submitting bids which set the right first impression for your business is very important.

Outsourced Bid Writing for CCS Frameworks

At Thornton & Lowe, we directly employ a large Bid Team, so you don’t have to. Our outsourced bid writing experts help our clients find and win places on frameworks, such as CCS. For details on other frameworks, we support our clients, which may be useful to your business, click here.

Details of our Bid Team who offer a consistent bid writing service for frameworks can be found here.

Current MCF3 Management Consultancy Supplier

If you are currently on the CCS Management Consultancy 3 framework but feel frustrated that you have not won many new government tenders through it, we can review this with you and ensure you have a strategy in place for MCF4.

We provide further details on this within our ‘Making a Government Framework Work for You: A Guide for SME Suppliers’.

Often more effective engagement with relevant public sector bodies, your likely clients, is required, using the framework as a tool for compliance and making it part of your sales systems, as well as formally responding to mini-competition opportunities which will be sent to you. This is encouraging the use of the ‘direct award’ element of the CCS MCF3 or upcoming 4 framework.

The Future of MCF4

The MCF4 offers a substantial opportunity for management consultancy services to secure lucrative government contracts. This framework, designed to cultivate a diverse supplier base from SMEs to large corporations, serves as a portal to new business avenues for those who deeply understand it and prepare their MCF bids with precision, especially through CCS consulting channels.

Other Articles Providing Bid Writing Guidance for CCS Frameworks

CCS Procurement Bid Writing for Frameworks

CCS launches new Facilities Management Framework - focusing on greater SME participation

Crown Commercial Services: How it can help your Business

The Benefits of the G Cloud 14 Framework

A Guide to Bids & Frameworks for the Recruitment Industry

What is Technology Products & Associated Services 2?

Winning Tenders with Schools and Academies

We invest a lot of time and effort into providing free resources to businesses looking to improve their bid writing and win more government contracts; our full list of blog articles can be found here

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