Advocacy contracts are becoming tighter and increasingly price driven. Whether you agree with price driven commissioning or not you’ve got to show Commissioners how you offer value for money.
You have to convince them that they are getting a good deal from you; in terms of both quality and cost.
You can do this more easily by understanding their definition of value and then showing that your outcomes offer this value.
1. Know the Basics
Here’s what you’ve got to know before you go any further:
- Value for money is subjective and changes depending on circumstances
- In tendering terms value for money is judged by Commissioners (the purchaser) and nobody else. You can’t judge it properly because you’re biased
- If you don’t put yourself in your Commissioners’ shoes and ask yourself whether your bid looks like it is value for money then you are missing a trick and will most likely lose it
- Your organisation needs to be ready to prove its ability to achieve outcomes and deliver value for money. You can only show this ability if you’ve invested enough time in understanding and developing how you do it first
- Value for money does not mean cheap. You could be the most expensive bidder delivering the highest quality with the best outcomes and still win the bid; it all depends on what the Commissioner wants. Do not undersell yourself on price unless you have a strategy to do so
2. Understand Your Commissioners Definition of Value
Value for money is subjective. What I believe to be good value may be significantly different from what you or anybody else thinks. Start by trying to understand what your Commissioners want, what is valuable to them right now and how this might change in the future. Do the following at the earliest opportunity:
- Read the tender documents fully, not just the service specification. There will be clues in the introductory information about your Commissioners’ strategy and what they value right now. Complement this by checking out their website and reading their annual report, development plans, and relevant cabinet meeting minutes. This should give you a feel for their current values.
- Check out the scoring criteria. Some Commissioners will base up to 70% of their marks on your price while others may go as low as 20%. Be decisive and decide whether your organisation can deliver competitively within these parameters.
- Look at the section in the tender documents that describes the outcomes your Commissioners expect and think hard about how you will deliver them. If you don’t feel confident about your ability to deliver them then you may as well put your pen down and reconsider your ability to bid.
3. Show That Your Outcomes Offer Value for Money
The following step-by-step process will give you an idea of whether you have achieved any outcomes that can show Commissioners that you offer value for money:
- Look at your organisation’s ‘mission statement’ and ask yourself whether you achieve what it says
- Ask your staff what they believe the outcomes of their work are
- Ask staff what they need to improve the likelihood of achieving good outcomes for your clients
- Review your outcome models and strategies; if you don’t have any get some quickly!
- Set your management team some objectives that will improve customer service to your current commissioners – this will improve your organisation’s outcomes
- Review your previous year’s advocacy data for evidence of good outcomes for clients, staff and commissioners
- Use national data to prove your effectiveness in strength areas (this could be contract retention, cost per case, positive Department of Health IMCA stats for example)
Following these steps takes effort and requires commitment. However I guarantee that this process will improve your ability to show Commissioners you offer value for money.
If you’ve already aced these steps then congratulations, you are already doing what you need to do.
So, just how well are you doing in showing commissioners that you offer value for money? Give me your questions in the comments section and I’ll reply with helpful advice.
This post was written by Rob Harris, Social Entrepreneur. Rob is founder and previous owner of Warrington-based social business Advocacy Experience, now owned by VoiceAbility.