The procurement of services is more complex than the procurement of goods. The purchasing of goods, for example, typically involves comparing like-for-like offerings with fixed parameters.
Services, on the other hand, are often procured in order to solve a specific problem. The skill and knowledge of a service provider can lead to unique solutions, the relative effectiveness of which are more difficult to compare than for standardised goods.
Why should we improve the way we procure professional services?
Simply put, inefficiency in procurement processes costs money that the public sector cannot afford to waste.
The recent recession has reinforced the need for greater value for public sector investment. This is reflected in the current guidance on best practice from HM Treasury and the Office for Government Commerce.
There is potentially much to be gained. Sir Peter Gershon’s 2004 review of public sector efficiency identified a total of £20 billion of efficiencies that could be achieved over four years. Sir Peter noted that, in 2003-04, the public sector spent over £100 billion purchasing goods and services.