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Putting digital skills to work for the future: a blog by Gillian Cameron, SDP Programme Manager

Gillian Cameron, SDP Programme Manager

Often with support from local authority economic teams and Business Gateway, in the past couple of weeks many businesses in Scotland have learned new skills to go digital with video conferencing and webinars in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as start to develop a plan for the future. The Supplier Development Programme (SDP) has stuck to business as usual with our proven dual approach to deliver tender training for suppliers, aside from moving face-to-face training to be delivered via our existing webinar service. Uptake of SDP webinars by Scottish SMEs and supported businesses remains steady in these uncertain times, especially as furloughed staff can voluntarily participate in SDP’s free training.

SDP is keen to support Scottish SMEs, third sector and supported businesses with thoughts on how best to use this potential “quieter” period to look to recovery and build a future business opportunity pipeline. Anyone that has attended an SDP Top Tips for Tendering talk will hopefully have taken away lessons on the goldmine of information that Public Contracts Scotland offers. Worthy of attention during the time suppliers spend learning how to “go digital” is the Contract Register.

The Contracts Register module in Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) offers buying organisations a private register of all the contracts they have in place. Having a public register of these contracts meets the obligations of Section 35 of the Procurement Reform Act (Scotland) 2014. It’s important to note that not all organisations will use the contract register service within PCS but must still produce one that is publicly available. This may take the form of a file available on a public website, like the Moray Council Contracts Register, which is updated and published monthly.

When a buying organisation publishes a contract award notice, as best practice it should also update its Contracts Register. This applies to all public sector contracts in Scotland over £50k and will be governed by the individual organisation’s standing orders – the details of each buying authorities purchasing plans, including the standing order, can also be found within PCS or via the buyer’s website.

As a public sector supplier, you can also view details of individual contracts that your company has been awarded through the Contracts Register.

PCS Contracts Register screenshot

Suppliers can freely access the PCS Contract Register by simply logging into PCS. This will take you to the Supplier Control panel. Look under the Search header, where the link for Contract Register is located.

Here suppliers can use a variety of search criteria including description, buyer, supplier and category. The results are produced in a list and you will be able to see the start and end date of the contract and any extension. By clicking on the title, you can then then view further details about the contract, including the buyer contact details, and the suppliers plus any sub-contractors (if applicable).

Some suppliers might ask what good can looking up a Contract Register do for a business, especially those that aren’t sure of the future.

Suppliers can use this data to identify future opportunities, which can help with forecasting, a key element of any business plan. You can set reminders in your calendar of these future opportunities so that you can get tender ready for when they are next let. You could contact the buyer to introduce yourself as a supplier - buyers are keen to understand who in the local area can deliver contracts, so this is a useful way to connect. During this exchange, you could also ask about the future scope and what the buyer would be keen to improve on or innovations they may be looking to make. Finally, a useful aspect of the Contract Register is to identify potential subcontract opportunities by contacting the supplier(s) that hold the current contract and introducing yourself as a possible subcontractor.

It is an uncertain time for business in Scotland, but by putting to use some of the new digital skills and online tools that suppliers are learning about through online training, they can improve their chances of returning to business as usual with a plan for the future in the public sector. The Supplier Development Programme offers a direct link to buyer profiles for councils, education, emergency services, housing associations and partnerships, NHS organisations and other buyers on PCS. You can access this quick link by exploring the Who buys what in Scotland? section on the SDP website.

Stay safe, stay well. Carry on and keep tendering.

Gillian Cameron is the Supplier Development Programme Manager. You can follow her on Twitter. If you would like to contact the SDP Scotland Team, please email info@sdpscotland.co.uk.

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