WHAT IS NETWORK SERVICES 3?
Network Services 3 is the most recent adaptation of a national framework, initially created in 2015 to replace the previous PSN Services and PSN Connectivity frameworks, and is aimed at providing buyers from central government and wider public sector organisations with access to network infrastructure and communications services. These include, but are not limited to cloud services, audio and video conferencing, radio and satellite networking.
This is a Crown Commercial Services (CCS) framework, available to public sector buyers from across the UK, which seeks to design a route to market that is both flexible and provides innovative, value for money solutions. Each previous iteration of this framework has had a strong focus on accessibility for SME suppliers, and it is expected that Network Services 3 will be no different. However, as the documentation for the third framework version is yet to be released, many across the sector are left speculating on how changes will be addressed within the newest framework format.
Network Services 3 is projected to have the same overall spend as the second version of the framework, at around £5bn. Network Services 2, which ran from 2019 and is due to end in Summer 2023, has allowed buyers to select products and solutions from 89 suppliers across the 13 lots. This framework iteration also featured flexible contract lengths as a key benefit, allowing buyers to procure goods and services in a manner which truly reflected their individual requirements. There was also the option for both direct award and further competition contracts.
The anticipated timeline for Network Services 3 sees documents drafted throughout August 2022, with applications open from October 2022 and the contract award date expected in April 2023.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
The suite of Network Services frameworks have, thus far, become the recommended vehicle for public sector buyers to create the infrastructure to adhere to the Government’s ICT and Digital Strategies. As this framework services the whole of the UK Public Sector, including local authorities, the NHS, the devolved governments and many other organisations, suppliers of all sizes should see it as critical to be involved.
WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE NETWORK SERVICES 2
As the documentation for this iteration has yet to be formally released, the details of this framework remain unknown, however there have been several changes from Network Services 2 already. Primarily, it is expected that the latest version of this framework will follow a different lot structure to its predecessor. Instead of advertising 13 separate lots, Network Services 3 is predicted to advertise lots in the following system:
Inter site connectivity
Lot 1a: WAN – Data Access Services
Lot 1b: Commercial Radio
Lot 1c: Tactical Radio
Lot 1d: Critical Domain Services
Intra site connectivity
Lot 2a: LAN – Local Connectivity Services
Lot 3a: IoT & Smart Cities – CCTV & Surveillance (ancillary).
Lot 3b: Communication Platform as a Service
Lot 4a: Analogue Telephony
Lot 4b: Digital Communication Services (unified comms)
Lot 4c: Contact Centre
Lot 4d: Inbound Telephony
Lot 4e: Paging and Alerting
Whilst the new lot structure may appear radically altered, Network Services 3 will incorporate most of the same technology and solutions as Network Services 2.
In addition to the change in lot structure, we would also anticipate a change in the application for Network Services 3. As with all large Government frameworks, the application can be intensive to ensure the suitability of suppliers. Previously, with the Network Services 2 iteration, the application process followed an open route, single stage process, and we wouldn’t expect this to be altered, however there could be new additions as to the types of questions.
With a focus on social impact within public sector tendering, we would fully predict the addition of a Social Value Questionnaire to be added to the financial, technical and competency criteria required for the previous framework versions. Indeed, during the Market Engagement event, held earlier this summer, areas of the agenda were dedicated to discussing social value exclusion criteria and potential score weightings.
As well as additions, there has already been an announcement from Crown Commercial Services that Network Services 3 will proceed without the inclusion of Mobile Voice and Data Services. This Lot currently encompasses 16 suppliers, and it remains unclear, until the formal release of documentation, how or if these services will be incorporated moving forward.
There have also been discussions surrounding minor changes to Terms & Conditions and Account Management for Network Services 3, whilst it is expected that the previous documents from Network Services 2 will form the overwhelming basis for these.
WHAT DO I NEED TO CONSIDER WHEN BIDDING FOR FRAMEWORKS SUCH AS NETWORK SERVICES 3?
Bidding to gain a place on a framework is a little different than bidding for a standard open tender, and here’s why… A point that we always raise with clients is that winning a place on a framework is one thing, however this does not automatically guarantee you work from it. To do this requires additional time, planning and keeping your finger on the pulse to make sure you don’t miss out on any chances to bid for mini competitions.
Contracts can then be awarded via mini competitions or direct awards for Network Services frameworks, allowing for a quicker and more competitive process. Lots on both previous iterations of this contract have been capped, and this is expected to be debated during the drafting process and supplier engagement events. Applications are expected to open around in autumn 2022, when the number of suppliers sought per Lot will also be announced.
Our innovative new Search & Selection service is also a fantastic option to help suppliers locate PINs. Our dedicated team will work with you to not only find public sector tenders but register you on relevant portals, download and review contracts documents that are of interest, summarise opportunities and help you to make an informed bid/no bid decision – saving you valuable time and resources.
BID WRITING SUPPORT FOR NETWORK SERVICES 3
Whilst the specifics of the Network Services 3 requirements are yet to be known, there are several areas that Thornton & Lowe can support you with to ensure once the tender is released, you are in the best position to win work.
As professional bid writers we can help you respond to Crown Commercial Services tenders, such as Network Services 3. Our bid consultancy services for this framework will ensure you fully understand the tender requirements for this critical tender. Our services include but are not limited to:
- End to End Bid Management: managing your bid for Network Services 3 from conception to completion
- Support for Specific Bid Elements: targeted support to areas such as case studies, additional evidence or social responsibility
- Read, Review & Comment: expert feedback to add value to your bid
- Bid Design: bringing structure and a professional, brand oriented design to support your bid
Thornton & Lowe can help you add significant value to your offering, showcasing your services to the best of your abilities in order to win work on this acutely competitive framework.
TOP BID WRITING TIPS TO EARN YOUR PLACE ON THE CCS NETWORK SERVICES 3 FRAMEWORK
As highly experienced bid professionals, with a constant success rate of over 75%, we have supported many clients to success on public sector frameworks. Our in house team of experienced bid professionals provide end to end big bid management, bid reviews and additional bid support services to give our clients the optimum chances for bid success.
Here are some of our top tips when bidding on frameworks:
- Approach frameworks as you would any other tender or contract opportunity – expect to invest time and resources to fully understand the buyer’s requirements.
- Conduct research and appreciate your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, and how you can seek competitive advantage.
- Be vigilant of compliance elements that may be required, so that you can plan for them. For example; what training will your staff need? Does the business need additional certifications? What experience and evidence is relevant and can you start planning for it, prior to the tender being advertised?
- Planning is key!
Looking to upskill your team? We also offer expert Bid Training services, in order to support on both the application forms and encourage your team to ensure they are ready to bid successfully. Understanding the latest advancements in procurement best practice could be the ideal way to begin preparations for the release of the Network Services 3 framework. Equipping yourself and your team with this key knowledge will ensure you approach all new tenders with clarity and confidence moving forward.
To this end, we offer detailed bidding masterclasses, including a Bidding for Beginners course and a 2 Day Bid and Tender Writing Masterclass. Both of these courses have been developed around industry best practice and direct input from procurement teams, creating a rounded learning approach.
Speak with a Bid Writing expert today