Archive for March, 2015

Visual Management for NFPs – Free Breakfast Event

Friday, March 27th, 2015

We’re organising a free Visual Management breakfast event in Central London on 13th May for managers in the not-for-profit sectors.  If you’ve ever wanted:

  • an easier way to manage your work and your teams, focusing on the things that matter
  • to cut through the clutter and be able to visualise important information in an actionable and meaningful way
  • to enable you and your teams work more collaboratively

….then Visual Management would be worth looking at.

Realising the potential benefits for our sectors, we have taken this versatile tool out of its traditional home in the commercial world and developed some management solutions particularly focused on the needs of non-profit organisations.  From providing a visual means of keeping track of everyday work, to controlling large numbers of small projects and managing processes like recruitment, or even your IT support, we think it’s a great solution.

Why not find out more and join us at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in Holborn from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday 13th May 2015.  Coffee/tea and breakfast pastries will be provided.  With plenty of time for questions and networking – and hopefully lots of new ideas – it should be a great way to start a Wednesday.

The formal booking system will be on-line after Easter, but if you want to secure your place now then just leave a comment below or email me.

For more details about Visual Management with targetprocess go to our web page, read our blog, or download an information sheet.


Managing Procurement – 2. Contracts

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Many of the areas we are asked to help with are around contracts with suppliers.  In this second blog I’ve penned a few thoughts that reflect some of our experiences from working with supply contracts in non-profit sectors – hopefully one or two of them might be useful.  Just to be clear though, this isn’t legal advice and you should see a solicitor if that’s what’s needed.

Firstly – the basics – what is a contract?

A contract is an agreement between parties where the relationship between them is intended to have a legal standing.  The contract should set out the nature of the relationship, the way in which it will be enacted, and the obligations and benefits that will accrue to each party.   We find the best contracts are usually in a form that is easily understood and specifically relevant to the purpose of the relationship.  To be valid in English law a contract needs four elements:

  1. An offer (usually a supplier proposing to provide or do something)
  2. An acceptance
  3. A consideration (usually a payment for what is being done)
  4. An intention to enter into a legal relationship.

Does a contract have to be in writing?

No – a verbal contract can be valid if it includes the elements above.  Some contracts must be in writing, for example financial contracts like credit agreements or contracts for the sale of land, but most day to day contracts don’t.

Is a purchase order a contract?

It depends.  A purchase order may form part of the contract between the purchaser and supplier, but a contract could be in place before you raise an order if it fulfils the criteria above.  Be aware of the potential for conflict between a supplier’s conditions of sale (often provided with a quotation) and your conditions of purchase on the order.  Try to clarify any ambiguities before accepting an offer or quote.

When do I need a separate contract?

Where standard terms of purchase and/or supply aren’t adequate to cover the requirements of both parties.  For high-value, business critical or complex purchases then a separate contract is probably preferable.

The supplier has a standard contract – should I use it?

Having solicitors draw up a new contract can be relatively expensive, not only in legal costs but also in terms of your time to work with them to ensure it meets your needs.  So unless your requirement is particularly unusual or very high value then it’s always worth looking at standard contracts first, particularly if you are working with a well-known and respected supplier to the sector.

Always read any supplier’s contract thoroughly, and seek advice on any areas you’re unsure about.  Our experience of UK suppliers is that they are generally amenable to minor changes to their standard terms to meet the needs of particular customers or situations.  A good approach can be to agree the proposed changes with the supplier and then ask your solicitor to check it before it is finalised.

If you’re using a supplier’s own contract (particularly for something like an IT system implementation) then it’s worthwhile asking other customers about their experience as part of the reference process.

When working with non-UK companies, check that any contract will be governed under UK law.  In the case of US based suppliers, the US has a much more litigious culture than the UK and our experience is that US companies can often tend to be less flexible if things go wrong.  If you’re using a US-based company’s own contract then it’s worth asking your lawyers to go through it and highlight the potential risks.

How can I get everything I need into the contract?

It is often best to use a contract that has two parts – Clauses (these take precedence and define the legal relationship) and Schedules that contain the detail of the services or products to be provided.  Schedules allow for more flexibility and can often be added to when needed as the contract progresses.  The use of schedules also allows for things like a supplier’s tender response to be included within the overall contract.

Bring in professional legal help if you need it.  It is much better to ask a solicitor to check a contract first, than having to bring them in later when something’s gone wrong.

If you’re looking for any general advice about how to approach a procurement, or for support in working with suppliers, then please contact me at or visit our website.


Managing Procurement – 1. Selecting a Supplier via Tender

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

Many of the questions we’ve been asked to address recently are around the management of contracts, suppliers and procurement.  I’m putting together a series of blogs around the subject and we will also be publishing good practice guidance, focused on the not-for-profit and membership sectors but widely relevant and, we hope, useful.

This first blog focuses on managing a successful tendering process.  For many organisations the need is around IT related purchases, such as websites or new CRM, so our focus is in this area.

Why tender?

The objective of a tender process is to ensure that you get the best supplier and product for you, at a price that is affordable whilst giving the supplier a reasonable level of profit.  (Cut a supplier’s margins too much and it will come back to bite you in terms of the relationship and in claims for additional payment.)

Do you always need to go to formal tender?  No, although this depends on your own financial regulations.  Tendering must add value – if there’s only one supplier out there then you’re in a negotiating rather than a tender situation.  (More on this in a future blog.)  If it’s a relatively low value contract or you’re purchasing a commodity product, then write a specification, ask for quotes and if needed interview the most likely suppliers.

The tender process

Tendering is expensive for suppliers – if you have over-onerous tendering processes then the costs will inevitably be reflected in the ultimate price you pay, and those suppliers who have plenty of other work (often the best suppliers) won’t bother to tender.

Think through and articulate the process before you start.  Be up-front with all potential suppliers about the process you intend to go through.  Be realistic in terms of the tendering demand on your own staff and the timescales – and stick to what you said you’d do.  (This will give suppliers confidence in your organisation, will reduce their risks and make them more likely to want to work with you.)

Adopt a structured process that avoids expending too much effort with suppliers you’re not going to appoint.  Narrow it down as early as you can to a few potential suppliers (perhaps 3) and spend time with them – involving all your stakeholders.  Get to the point where you can identify a ‘preferred supplier’ and undertake the detailed contract negotiations then.  Also, if at all possible, get them to do a small pilot or ‘proof of concept’ before committing to a full contract.  (You should expect to pay for this but it will be worth it.)

Make sure your tender evaluation process is objective, auditable and agreed with your key stakeholders.   This will not only help you get the right supplier, but it will also help keep everyone on board with the final decision.

Defining Requirements

Avoid making requirements specifications too long and detailed at the outset.  The temptation is often to consult everyone in the organisation and write down everything they think they want – but this is inevitably constrained by current perceptions.  Focus on the higher level business outcomes, and explore with suppliers how these can be achieved.

It isn’t just cost and quality – its culture as well

Think about assessing how easy it will be for your organisation to work with the supplier effectively, is there a cultural ‘fit’?  This is critical for any form of consultancy, but is also important where you will need to work closely with a company over a period of time, such as an IT supplier.  This is where a pilot can really help.

Beware the salesman!

Some companies are very sales-focused, others are product or service focused.  Many achieve a good balance but few are strong in all areas.  Companies who are very strong on sales will often have their best resources in the sales team, which inevitably leads to disappointment when you find yourself working with the delivery team.  On the other hand, a really good product can be obscured by a poor sales approach.  Your selection process needs to provide a way through this.

Take advice where you can

Bring in professional help if you need it.  A good tender process sets the foundation for a successful project.  We can often save clients more than we charge in fees by ensuring an efficient and effective tendering process, and knowing where and how to negotiate to obtain the best price.

Want to know more?  Then email me or visit our website.