Oxfordshire County Council has been one of the first Local Authorities to recognise the benefits of e-brokerage and has been supported by Affinity Works in setting up and implementing specialist software by OCC to improve its educational support commissioning service. According to Sara Carey, Finance & Business Development Team Leader at Oxfordshire County Council, e-brokerage has replaced the previous paper-based system and has delivered increased transparency, better cost control and a resounding thumbs-up from the authority and its suppliers alike.
Oxfordshire has migrated its list of suppliers onto its new e-brokerage system. This has enabled them to post packages of work requested by schools to a single place, where all suppliers can access and view them and respond where appropriate. All responses land back in the same place within a given time-frame and can be evaluated against the required criteria, enabling the Authority to identify the supplier most appropriate for the needs of the school.
There is no longer a time-consuming process of contacting individual suppliers, receiving and consolidating separate responses, then comparing and contacting suppliers again. The entire process has now been streamlined, is transparent and easy to use for the authority and for suppliers.
“I’m sure other Local Authorities will be looking at e-brokerage as the Academy agenda is driving more commissioning authority staff and fewer internal advisors,” Sara says. “Currently, we’re using the system for teacher-to-teacher support, but the next phase will extend e-brokerage to teacher-to-learner support.”
The areas covered by the Oxfordshire e-brokerage system include:
- Early years
- Governor services
- School improvements
- Vulnerable learners
Schools request support from the Local Authority and Oxfordshire simply posts an appropriate work package, then the e-brokerage system does the rest.
Making the change
Sara explains that before migrating suppliers’ data, Oxfordshire held a Supplier Day to provide information about the new system and outline the terms and conditions of signing up. The day was a great success, she says, with around 70 suppliers already secured.
“We have 3 or 4 significant Local Authorities we can draw upon for school improvements and companies that range from large firms to sole traders, all of whom have an equal chance of gaining a contract, providing they meet the criteria,” Sara confirms. “It’s a fairer process, whereby suppliers are chosen on the basis of quality, flexibility and cost, none are chosen on the basis of being ‘preferred’.”
This dynamic procurement system is also easier to use for suppliers, she adds. An interactive website flags up all packages created, alerts potential suppliers to view the opportunity and invites them to tick those requirements they can meet and provide a price.
“It’s been a matter of simply automating old paper records onto the new system,” says Sara. “The transition has been relatively straightforward and once suppliers get the hang of it, they prefer it too. Using the South East Business Portal they apply to become an ‘approved provider’ and once accepted can register for our e-brokerage system and find work packages.”
“We’re still working on the e-brokerage system in terms of a scoring matrix, pre-set service leads and score responses, so there’s still development work to do. From the outset, we’ve had absolutely fantastic ongoing support from Affinity Works in implementing the system and making sure it continues to work smoothly – they are quick to respond to any challenges or issues that arise and their Help Desk has been great for us and for our suppliers,” Sara concludes.
“Our e-brokerage system is bespoke and unique, it’s made a big difference and now we’d be lost without it!”
- less time consuming for the Local Authority
- easy for suppliers – when a work package is posted, it’s easy to respond
- more transparent – work can’t go to ‘preferred’ suppliers and is allocated on the basis of criteria met
- fairer – all suppliers can tender for packages, irrespective of size
- able to provide tighter financial controls and reduce costs