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Developing a PME Process for Public Sector Procurement

Written by Thornton & Lowe


Jun 28, 2024

PME Introduction

One of the changes as a result of the Procurement Act 2023 is the Preliminary Market Engagement (PME) guidance and focus. Preliminary market engagement has always been part of most procurement strategies and a PIN notice was the key formal route for this.

PME involves interacting with the market, with potentially credible suppliers, before a formal procurement exercise. This helps to understand levels of competition, challenges and key suppliers, as well as their capabilities, innovations, new technology and potential alternative solutions available.

Why is PME important the public sector procurement?

Put simply, PME will help the public sector achieve better value for money. Knowing you have a need, rarely means you fully understand the available solutions available from the market. We often here from public sector suppliers that they are having to bid based on a tender and specification which is not fit for purpose. I’m sure we have all experienced tenders with hundreds of clarification questions, numerous specification versions and updated tender documents. An effective preliminary market engagement exercise, as part of your procurement process, will not only ensure a more streamlined and efficient process, but also increased competition from engaged and quality bidders. The result being better procurement outcomes!

Additionally, the Procurement Act also emphasises the importance of effective contract management post-procurement. This makes so much sense but has largely been an underfunded area within public sector bodies in the UK.

Both preliminary market engagement and stronger contract management procedures linked to the procurement will improve supplier relationships and should enable better collaboration right from the very start.

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PME, the Procurement Act and key changes and expectations

The new guidance under the Procurement Act 2023 highlights several important areas and best practices for conducting PME:

  1. If a contracting authority undertakes PME, it must publish a PME Notice or justify why it did not do so in the tender notice (contract notice). This will be via the new single digital platform (enhanced Find a Tender). This notice invites suppliers to participate in market engagement activities, enhancing transparency and supplier awareness​. Think PIN if you are familiar with current procedures and it still reduces timeframes
  2. PME should be inclusive, providing opportunities for a diverse range of suppliers, including SMEs, to participate
  3. The timelines for PME responses must be reasonable and proportionate, ensuring suppliers have adequate time to prepare and respond​. Rushing a pre-market engagement exercise, losing the value and benefits of doing it. You want better outcomes as a result, this is more than a tick box exercise.

2 key areas and clarification as a result of the Procurement Act 2023 is that contracting authorities should consider:

  1. Identify capable suppliers who can provide the required goods, services, or works. This means not relying on suppliers to the advert or notice. You can, but we believe this balances the responsibility for having the right bidders and therefore the right suppliers. We have a FREE Service, Tender Pipeline, which can do this in minutes!
  2. Build supplier capacity by helping them understand, in good time, the requirements and prepare effectively for the procurement process. Supply chain development and engagement has been our focus for the last 15 years. Speak to our team and discuss the real benefits of engaging and developing your supply chain and your teams commercial skillset.
PME Benefits WIDE

Quick wins, training and FREE support for PME

To ensure compliance and achieve better procurement outcomes, public sector bodies can:

1. Use Tender Pipeline

Tender Pipeline, is our free software, and is a tool that quickly identifies who is winning contracts and getting onto frameworks similar to your upcoming procurements. By using keywords or CPVs (Common Procurement Vocabulary) and specifying locations or neighbouring organisations, contracting authorities can quickly identify potential suppliers. This enables a targeted and efficient supplier identification process. It quickly provides the data and contact details for you engage with the quality suppliers already winning and delivering similar contracts.

2. Build Supplier Capacity

In 2009, Thornton & Lowe was formed because our MD was working in public sector procurement and was inundated with supplier challenges and development opportunities.

By working with identified suppliers, including your existing supply chain, you can enhance their understanding of the contract requirements and procurement process. Routes include:

  • Webinars and training sessions specifically on your upcoming procurement
  • Bid and proposal courses and ‘meet the buyer’ type interventions
  • Supplier readiness gap analysis and action plans
  • Signposting to possible funding and wider business support for supplier development activities (thinking specifically of local SMEs)
  • Developing a Supplier Development Programme, focussed on pre-identified, high performing suppliers who could add significant value to your organisation, if they were supported to build their capacity
  • Ensuring effective feedback mechanisms, to allow bidders to improve.

3. Development preliminary market engagement policies, templates and systems

Your organisation needs to agree your standardised approach to PME. Policies, procedures, templates and training will allow your team to excel and reap the benefits of effective preliminary market engagement.

We work with our clients to facilitate and develop PME processes which are right for your organisation and structure, and importantly create better procurement outcomes.

This includes embedding contract management within your procurement processes.

Outsourced Preliminary Market Engagement (PME)

If your organisation does not have the capacity to complete preliminary market engagement, or prepare or manage their procurement requirements, contact us. Via our Outsourced Public Procurement Team, we can help.

At Thornton & Lowe we offer an outsourced service for PME and procurement. Our supply chain and procurement consultants ensure you are ready to go to tender via a number of services, including:

  • Service or requirement audit to ensure you have the data you need
  • Market assessment
  • Market and supplier research and engagement, including working with your current suppliers
  • PME training and up-skilling your team
  • Procurement strategies, policies and procedures
  • Procurement team formation and development.

Contact us to discuss PME

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