Implementation and Management Approach
The Scottish Procurement Directorate is responsible for the management and implementation of the overall project and a dedicated project team of 7 SPD staff has been set up to facilitate the roll-out of the initiative, although the project is supported by the sectoral collaborative buying hubs, Trades Unions, Enterprise Agencies, Employer Organisations,Â such as Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, CBI Scotland and the Social Enterprise Sectors. Other support is given by the Enterprise Europe Network to promote the service.
The project team consults widely with both the governance groups, delivery and user groups which provide strong leadership, management direction and communication of the service. The PPDG/portal user groupsÂ are comprised of senior procurement personnel from a wide range of public sector organisations whoÂ assist with the project implementation through minimise unnecessary duplication of effort, removal of obstacles, manage risks and realise benefits. The SPD project team communicates with theseÂ groups via status reports, board papers, meetings workshops and user intelligence groups.Â Businesses understand progress and give direction to the development of the service through the PPAG, which is chaired by the Minister for Enterprise, but is comprised of the major employer organisations, trade unions and social enterprise sectors in Scotland.
The project is delivered in partnership between the SPD and the private sector after a contract was awarded to Millstream Associates Ltd in December 2007 following a public tender procedure.Â On a day-to day basis Millstream are responsible for the software development and helpdesk, of the PCS portal, while SPD are responsible for the projects implementation to suppliers and contracting organisations. By implementing the solution in this way, SPD have been able to take advantage of the technicalÂ knowledge and user support expertise of the software provider, while utilising the new and innovative governance structuresÂ of public sector procurement in Scotland.
This partnership arrangement is managed through a Service Level Agreement and close liaison between the two parties.Â A detailed Development Plan is used to drive developments on the portal and monthly reports and project meetings help to monitor the progress.Â
In terms of practically implementing and managing the project â€“ a staged implementation has been rolled out by supporting a targeted marketing campaign for both contracting authorities and economic operators.Â Change management for individuals within contracting organisations has been crucially important, as individuals have had to change policies, systems and ultimately behaviours to use the service to benefit suppliers.Â A detailed project plan was set up, with appropriate tasks detailed such as training and support for the tool itself, provision of migration strategy to organisations using other advertising portals and the transition of all contract information held on those systems.
â€˜Early Adopterâ€™ training was provided to 20 contracting authority organisations before the launch date, with a view to using them as key supporters to help roll out to other contracting authorities.Â Both the SPD project team and the service provider are involved in consulting stakeholders at the implementation level, for example user group meetings take place every quarter where risks, issues, questions, developments and stakeholder feedbackÂ is discussed. Knowledge has been transferred from the SPD account managers either through direct training, through the train the trainer approach or through interaction with individuals within their organisations sector. Similarly, suppliersâ€™ knowledge transfer has occurred through both direct and indirect marketing. The policy has been to encourage individual ownership and accountability for knowledge transfer at all levels within the project. The policy is not a one size fits all approach from the central project team.
Practical guidance material is also readily available through the portal and through the Scottish Government website, including aÂ PCS implementation checklist guide, to help each organisation monitor ongoing implementation, and a PCS User Guide,Â describing the key features and functionality. Other information is also provided to assist suppliers including user instructions for the site, practical guides to assist private businessÂ in working with the public sector, a list of contracting organisations using the service (updated monthly) and information relating to detailed goods, services and works which the public sector spends across Scotland.
A strong supporting framework for implementation, wide consultation and buy-in from users and other key stakeholders has helped to ensure an effective management approach to the whole project.
Technical interoperability is paramount for the PCS solution as it must comply with the eSender protocols agreed by the European Commission's Publications Office (OPOCE).Â It also has to interface with a spend analysis system administered a third party provider in order that procurement spend information can be measured against contracts advertised and awarded.
PCS was developed using ASP.Net, an Object Oriented Programming (OOP) model for creating network applications that take advantage of the Internet.Â ASP.Net not only makes it simple to use XML for data storage, configuration and manipulation, it also provides great support for Web Services which are designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction.Â
Therefore XML web services are a key part of the solution. Using Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), users can simply exchange XML-based messages, in this instance tender notices are generated in XML, over computer networks using HTTP. At present the main interchange of information takes place when procurement notices are exported to 3rd party systems and when notices are imported from 3rd party systems. The XML schemas for the transfer of this information are published by the Office of Official Publications in Luxembourg and the Portal system is fully compliant with the OJEU DTD 2.0.5 XML specification.Â
PCS has been developed using XHTML and is fully compliant with the XHTML 1.0 Transitional standard. Content and layout are kept separate through the use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Notice information is held on the database and displayed as HTML pages "on demand". CSS is then used to format the display of the pages in the web browser. PCS functions effectively with all standards compliant browsers and has been audited by web accessibility consultants and their recommendations have been implemented to ensure compliance with WC3 AA accessibility standards. Changes to the Portal are tested using accessibility validation tools and checked against W3C validity standards. Access keys are also provided for those who require them.
The PCS service also offersÂ contracting organisationsÂ the option of creating their own individual microsites which feature future contracts, contact details, past contract awards and future purchasing plans (held on PCS). These consistent yet individually Â badgedÂ microsites are embedded within each organisations own website to allowÂ suppliers maximum access through integration into the overall PCS service.Â All contracting organisations are actively encouraged to pursue this option.