CCS Framework RM3785 Good Practice Guide

David Burton, Crown Commercial Services Director at CDS gives his top tips for using the CCS Framework.

Best Practice

Avoid covering ground already covered

Take a look at the CCS Framework Statement of Requirements (SOR) document or better still, discuss with the CCS Team. CCS can be contacted via their website

Identify what was covered off in the CCS Framework Competition – ask for details of the questions which were asked of suppliers – there is positively no need to cover off the same ground. The appointed suppliers were all fully evaluated by the CCS Team and provided satisfactory answers to each of the questions asked. When preparing your own SOR, you should focus on issues that are unique to you and your organisation and refrain from covering off ground that has already been covered and tested.

Engage with all internal Key Stakeholders who will be potentially using the proposed contract. Establish whether their requirements fit the generic requirement you have identified and for which you intend to go to market. If they do, so and good but if they do not, get them to explain to you precisely what it is that they require. Ask them to provide a detailed brief of the requirement and ask them to give their specific requirement a bespoke title, e.g. ‘Appeals Bundles’; ‘Committee and Agenda Papers’ etc.

Identify all requirements

In your SOR, ensure that all the specific requirements are identified – there should be no surprises to the supplier when the contract goes live. For each requirement, try to define the likely urgency for the nominated supplier to meet the requirement. If this is variable try to explain which elements require urgent or immediate action, e.g. four-hour response for Committee and Agenda papers and which elements require a standard turnaround. Try to explain what percentage of the requirement falls into the urgent category and how often the urgent service may be required. Also explain why there is a need for the urgent/immediate requirement – what is it for? What is its purpose? This helps the supplier design a solution that will best fit your requirement.

To the bidding suppliers it is important that your information is as comprehensive as possible. Don’t worry about providing too much detail – it is better to have lots of detail than be faced with lots of clarification questions from suppliers trying to understand what it is you are looking for.

Do not fall into the trap of seeking a great number of responses to questions. Remember, the suppliers have already proved their value and worth to the CCS Team when the framework was originally competed, evaluated and awarded. The advice is to draft ten or less questions covering off issues that are important to you e.g:

  1. Explain how the various requirements specified will be managed
  2. How will you ensure that products meet your quality standards?
  3. Provide details of the staff to be assigned to the contract including their specific skills and experience
  4. Explain how your approach to Corporate Social Responsibility will benefit this contract and our organisation
  5. Provide a high-level implementation/mobilisation plan which deals with the key issues of taking over this contract.
  6. Provide key milestone dates

For each of the questions asked, try to explain precisely what you are looking for in terms of a response – there should be no ambiguity. This approach will ensure that you receive good responses that will assist in the mini-tender evaluation.

Don’t try to price everything

In terms of pricing, avoid trying to seek fixed prices on everything you produce. In reality, these prices are often useless as in a live environment, the specification may have changed or the volumes required will increase or reduce and at that point, the fixed price contained within the tender response is virtually useless.

The advice is to try to identify a small number of products that your authority will actually buy on a regular basis where the specification is likely to be fixed and the volumes are unlikely to change significantly for example:

  1. Typical business cards – 100, 250 and 500 copies
  2. A regular newsletter
  3. A typical leaflet – choose volumes to price that you regularly buy
  4. A typical booklet in various paginations and various volume bandwidths
  5. An A3 colour poster – choose volumes to price that you regularly buy
  6. Something unusual that you regularly purchase
  7. Digital print costs for A4 mono; A4 colour; A3 mono; A3 colour etc

You should guard against suppliers submitting extraordinary low prices by warning that ‘prices submitted which, in the view of the authority are extraordinarily below market rates expected, will be challenged and could lead to the suppliers bid submission being withdrawn from the exercise.’

Remember, for each product you seek prices for you must provide a full and complete specification if you want to avoid numerous unnecessary clarification questions during the bidding process.

Set out a clear timetable for the competition to include where appropriate:

  1. Publication date of the ITT (SOR)
  2. Final date (and time) for the submission of clarification questions
  3. Final date for the release of clarification responses back to bidders
  4. Submission date (and time) – the date and time by which all bidders must submit their proposals
  5. Evaluation period
  6. Date of award
  7. Details of any standstill period (your Authority may feel that there is no requirement for any standstill period)
  8. Details of any anticipated Mobilisation/Implementation period – i.e. four weeks (--/--/-- to --/--/--)
  9. Go Live date

Value of the contract

To ensure that suppliers understand the approximate annual value of the opportunity it is important that you state clearly what the potential value of the contract is. Your assessment could be based on existing annual spend where a similar arrangement is in place or, if there is currently no contract in place, try to identify what has been spent on the various elements of the requirement and provide what information you can.

Contract term

Ensure that you are clear about the term you are offering. This is usually an initial term, e.g. three years and then there is the option of an extension, e.g. plus one year by mutual agreement. You need to keep in mind that the maximum length of contract under this framework is four years so the total of any initial term plus extension should not exceed four years.

Print room requirement

If your requirement includes the provision of a) an on-site print room b) an off-site print room or c) a print room solution outsourced to an external supplier there is certain information in terms of volumetrics that you should provide as part of your specification requirement. These are as follows:

  • Annual ‘clicks’:
    • Mono A4
    • Mono A3
    • Colour A4
    • Colour A3
    • Mono A2 (if required)
    • Mono A1 (if required)
    • Mono A0 (if required)
    • Colour A2 (if required
    • Colour A1 (if required)
    • Colour A0 (if required)
  • Number of individual orders processed each year
  • For a and b above, it would be useful to have the same information for previous years (three years would be sufficient if available). The supplier is trying to ascertain whether annual volumes are similar on a year to year basis or whether they are reducing year on year and if so, by what percentage
  • Average value of an order
  • Lowest value of an order placed
  • Highest value of an order placed
  • Average turnaround time for completing an order
  • Details of specific urgent turnaround work:
    • What timescale is deemed urgent, i.e. four hours
    • What percentage of the print room requirement is subject to this ‘urgent’ production turnaround

Don’t worry if you cannot provide all the information listed above. This is an ideal scenario. You should provide as much of the information as possible and acknowledge what you cannot provide to avoid any unnecessary clarification questions during the bidding process.

Storage and fulfilment

If your requirement includes storage and fulfilment it is important that the following information is provided as part of your SOR document:

  • Where geographically the stock is held, i.e. West Yorkshire
  • How big is the storage requirement – usually expressed in terms of number of pallets held
  • Whether the stock is wholly owned by your organisation, i.e. it is fully paid for or, if the stock is owned by the supplier until it is called off and it is at that point that the stock is charged out.
  • How many stock lines are there (lines = individual products)
  • In terms of the current stock holding, are the items dispatched as individual units or as packs of multiple units? Ideally, a product stock list should be supplied which details for each item:
    • Number of units/packs currently in stock
    • Number of individual units in a pack
    • Number of packs dispatched in last year
  • Also taking account of the whole requirement:
    • Number of orders processed in the past year
    • Average number of line items per order
  • Thinking about distribution, you need to make clear what your expectations are in terms of time taken for an order received to be delivered. Is delivery to a central point or direct to desks – you will need to be aware that delivery direct to desks may increase the price of distribution substantially.
  • On-line ordering – if this is a requirement you need to state clearly what your expectations are and whether or not there is a requirement for the supplier to link to any of your own systems. If this is the case, provide as much information as possible regarding the system and its version.

Again, providing all the information above is the ideal scenario. If you are unable to provide all the information, you should provide what you can explaining what is missing and cannot be supplied. This will avoid unnecessary clarification questions.


Consider what aspect of the service requirements are essential or important to your organisation and look at KPI and SLA’s that reflect these. Try not to fall into the habit of selecting SLA or KPI just for the sake of it. Also, remember that there needs to be a measure if these are going to be effective. If it is going to be difficult to measure, the KPI may have no value.

Management Information

Again, do not overburden the supplier with MI that has no real value to you, your organisation or the contract. Choose MI that will help you with the governance of the contact and measure the effectiveness of the supplier. You may also want to capture MI that provides you with details of spend against specific elements of your contract and/or savings captured.

These good practice ideas represent the views of CDS, one of six suppliers assigned to the CCS Framework RM3785, Lot 2.

David Burton

Interested? For more information visit our page all about the Crown Commercial Services Framework, email David Burton at CDS, or call 0113 399 4000 and we will do what we can to help.

CDS is one of six framework suppliers.

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