Procurement – Lessons Learned

Below is a list of lessons learned relating to Procurement, taken from a selection of recently completed programmes and projects across the NICS.

Issue 1 - Uncertainty over the description of award criteria lead to additional work.

Recommendation 1 - Tender panel and CPD to agree award criteria early in the process and ensure that it can differentiate between bidders.

Issue 2 - Early engagement with CPD is essential to secure appropriate resources and to achieve timescales being worked to and to avoid any delay to procurement.

Recommendation 2 - Early engagement with CPD recommended at the outset.  Work Orders raised to secure resource. CPD invited to be a Project Board member where appropriate.

Issue 3 - One venue due for refurbishment was in a more advanced state of readiness with existing designs and specifications already in place. The use of the CPD Framework to tender the ICT contract worked well.

Recommendation 3 - Continue to use the CPD Framework for tenders.

Issue 4 - Negotiations on conditions of contract were too long, complicated and costly.

Recommendation 4 - Tender panel to be aware of commitment required to CPN route.

Issue 5 - The need to see the “bigger picture”, and the development of an integrated approach for the management and processing of all contracts, was identified. This included building procurement timescales into each element of the programme, including lead times for materials. This would have highlighted interdependencies and helped reduce bottlenecks. 

Recommendation 5 - The earlier identification of sub-projects would have aided the procurement process, although a degree of flexibility is still needed, to both agree the plan, and to flex it if circumstances changed.

Issue 6 - Investing time in pre-market engagement is beneficial to inform the completion of requirements and remove potential ambiguity and reduce risk of market failure/contract dispute.

Recommendation 6 - Market engagement to be undertaken in advance of procurement.

Issue 7 - Staff intensive procurement route taken.

Recommendation 7 - Project manager to be aware of the staff intensive nature of CPN route and to plan resources accordingly.

Issue 8 - Waiting until business case approval led to delays in commencing associated procurement documentation, a disparity between the preferred option and CPD commercial guidance and ultimately a delay in publishing the procurement.

Recommendation 8 - Early engagement with CPD recommended at the outset to advise of tasks requiring completion and to ensure the business case options are consistent with CPD advice.

Industry guidance/ further reading

NICSHR, Pre Market Engagement (e-Learning), via LInKS.

NICSHR, Tender Evaluation Panel Training 2023 (e-Learning), via LInKS.

Department of Finance: Procurement | Department of Finance (

APM, APM Guide to Contracts and Procurement (2017).

Related articles

Back to top