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Commissioning #10: The Limits of a ‘Text Only’ Application

A picture paints a thousand words

We were recently informed that we had to upload all answers to a tender through a procurement system. I could sort of understand this if it is a legal requirement for reasons of fairness. However, this was not the reason. It was because it established a clear paper trail for the procurement lead. It is relatively common and solely about the preferred system for the procurement team.

When commissioning services, you can learn a lot about providers from the way they communicate. For example:

BeeZee Bodies image showing various healthy lunchbox ideas
  1. Branding – Providers who understand good branding are more likely to be able to engage members of the public. Of course, it can’t be all branding and no substance. But a branded, formatted, well written document/s provides useful insight into their approach in the real world, with real people. If they do it badly here, they will probably do it badly in the real world and this includes brevity.
  2. Use of appropriate imagery where it enhances text – Text based systems prevent contextual information being enhanced with appropriate images. In some systems, it is possible to upload these images separately, but this ruins the flow of the experience. The experience of the reader is paramount in communicating effectively. Also, there are many instances where small images that slightly enhance the message being communicated do not feel worth adding as a whole attachment.

This is a prime opportunity to learn something about the potential providers that needn’t be missed by having a solely text-based system. Procurement is just the first hurdle in actually getting quality services into the hands of the public. Engaging the hardest to reach groups requires a full understanding of brand and tone and communicating the most amount of information in the least amount of words.

Summary of this commissioning series

Over the course of the past month, I have tried to cover off some of the most talked about issues from our experiences, the experiences of other providers and the many commissioners we speak to and have worked with. There is frustration on both sides about some, but not all, of the processes that can arise in commissioning services. Whether people are willing to talk openly about this or not is another matter. Some commissioners have described feeling ‘trapped’ by the system they use and do not feel like they can make changes to it because it is pre-set by procurement and the process is a heavily legal one. Some providers, including us, can feel (again, not always) that it is difficult to showcase the extent of the benefit they/we can bring to a contract using the procurement systems that are being used by some commissioners. If this is the first blog you are seeing in this series you may find some of the other blogs in this series  listed on the right hand side of this page interesting reading.

In this series, I have tried to offer some of these issues up for discussion and to highlight that if you feel like any of these may be true, you are most definitely not alone. I believe strongly in ensuring that public money is spent on getting the highest quality services in front of the people that need them most. If you are working in public health, you do too! If there are hints of frustration with any of the issues raised in this series, get in touch and we are happy to connect commissioners up with others who are facing the same issues or who have overcome such issues. Again, you are not alone, and things CAN be changed to ensure you procure a service that is genuinely going to deliver the quality your population deserves.

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