The burden of buying

Being a successful public sector IT buyer is one of the toughest tasks in the procurement world.
    
While cost overruns and delays have often dogged large projects, even selecting new monitors or laptops for a small organisation is complicated when comparing the merits of complex specifications, myriad brands and suppliers, and concerns about price, availability and achieving best value.
    
Juggling the many variables that impact on IT buying decisions is challenging enough in calm economic waters. Those challenges have multiplied this year, as inflation grips key commodities such as energy - where prices have doubled in 12 months - and raw materials such as copper, aluminium and plastics where prices have risen by up to 50 per cent this year.
    
Given the global nature of the IT marketplace, recent exchange rate turbulence is also having a daily effect on the price to consumers of thousands of products.

Help at hand
For local authorities wrestling with these and many other challenges OGCbuying.solutions, the trading arm of the Office of Government Commerce, offers a perfect port in the storm, providing a trusted, value-for-money, fast and flexible route to a comprehensive range of IT products and services.
    
These EU-compliant, pre-tendered, one-stop-shop framework agreements save buyers time, money and worry by providing access to a range of rigorously evaluated and carefully chosen market-leading suppliers who are experts in their fields.
    
Developed in consultation with existing customers from across the public sector, these arrangements have been structured so that requirements can be quickly and efficiently called off, while standard terms and conditions, and a transparent audit trail provide important contractual safeguards.
    
Meanwhile, NAO approved, independent price benchmarking is used to demonstrate savings and identify areas for further efficiencies.

Diverse portfolio
Buying Solutions’ diverse IT products portfolio covers desktops, laptops, notebooks, monitors, computer accessories, components, cables, consumables and devices, servers, scanners, software, storage, tablet and thin client computers, toners and batteries.
    
A broad range of consultancy and managed services are available to help cut through the complexities of the IT marketplace. The services help organisations to plan and manage their IT requirements to take advantage of best practice, and enjoy the fruits of aggregation and collaboration within the public sector.
    
Buying Solutions also manages software licence Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and Bulk Licence Agreements (BLAs) with a variety of software owners such as Microsoft and Oracle. These agreements offer significant discounts to public sector customers, allowing them to make considerable savings.
    
The latest of these deals with Becta was announced in October in which a wide range of software, including operating systems, design, development and testing tools, network and security, data management and storage, enterprise resource planning and management information, is now available to schools and other educational institutions.
    
Buying Solutions also provides access to a wide range of framework agreements and managed services outside of the ICT arena, covering Property and Office Solutions, Professional Services, Payment Solutions, Energy, Travel and e-Commerce. They also provide additional support in the form of customer advice and guidance on procurement issues specific to the public sector and ongoing monitoring of supplier performance to ensure product and service quality.

Unique system
Meanwhile, a unique market intelligence system is taking the growing stress out of buying IT for local government and the public sector as a whole.
    
The IT Index, owned and operated by Birmingham-based Probrand, a Buying Solutions supplier, provides instant access to a web based procurement solution which features more than 75,000 products from more than 500 different vendors in a secure online environment.
    
The system runs daily price comparisons based on 37 data feeds supplied by the IT industry’s leading distributors and then uses this data to provide the most competitive prices available in the industry at any given time on any given product from a server to a printer toner cartridge. It can also identify those products with the best environmental credentials.
    
The software that drives the IT Index, called Mercato, is the first e-procurement solution ever to have been accredited by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.
    
Current users of this technology include Leeds City Council, Transport for London, Highland Council and The Student Loans Company.

A reassurance
Another organisation that has reaped the benefits of the IT Index is Cheltenham Borough Council. According to the council’s David Gatford: “The fact that we know that the IT Index conducts daily price comparisons based on products within the industry’s mainline UK distribution network is a major reassurance that we are securing best value at all times.
    
“Another benefit of using the IT Index is that it has helped us to eliminate random calls from sales people offering supposed bargains. We used to end up with companies just shipping goods to us even if we hadn’t ordered them on the basis that we had previously ordered the product.
    
“We know that we don’t have to jump at supposed bargains. The solution has saved over 15 per cent of the council’s IT budget. Savings made on individual products consistently range from three to six per cent and we have reduced our £120,000 bill for inkjet, toner and fax cartridges by 20 per cent.

For more information
For more details about the IT Index visit www.theitindex.co.uk

To discuss your broader IT and procurement needs call the Buying Solutions Customer Service Desk on 0845 410 2222 or visit www.ogcbuyingsolutions.gov.uk

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