Interview with Matt Denham, Executive Director for Crown Commercial Service


Matt Denham


  1. Briefly introduce CCS – its role, purpose and activities

 CCS was established in April 2014. We are a trading fund and Executive Agency of the Cabinet Office providing commercial and procurement expertise and services to government and the wider public sector.

Our vision is to become the primary commercial services provider to government and the wider public sector by 2019/20, by delivering increased savings, exceptional customer service and expert advice to our customers.

  1. Briefly about your role and responsibilities

 My role is the Commercial Delivery Director which means I oversee CCS’s commercial procurement function. The team provides commercial expertise on specific categories of suppliers and offers fully managed procurement services to government. I am responsible for delivering leading-edge, cost-effective, procurement strategies and effective management of relationships across categories of suppliers.

  1. What according to you are the key reforms that have been introduced over last three years within public procurement to make it easier for SMEs to do business with the government?

 I’d say the biggest is without doubt the introduction of The Public Contracts Regulations (PCR) 2015 which came into force on 26 February 2015. These included a number of new or updated provisions that either remove unnecessary barriers to participation, or reduce procurement process costs, time, and bureaucracy.

They also mandated across the public sector a lot of the changes we’ve seen in central government, like the abolition of PQQs for low value tenders, the use of Contracts Finder and 30 day payment terms.

Additionally, they also strengthened our already very successful Mystery Shopper service, where suppliers can report poor procurement practice. The team have had over 1000 cases come in to date and, of the cases closed, 95% have resulted in a positive outcome, which is a fantastic achievement and is helping us deliver real change and improvement.

  1. What are your priorities with regards to active participation of SMEs? 

The SME agenda is a value for money agenda, it is about increasing diversity in the market to achieve better value for money for the taxpayer. So our priorities are how we procure differently to increase that diversity – such a G-Cloud or the upcoming Crown Marketplace.

  1. What challenges you face when implementing the reforms to help engage with SMEs?

 We’ve done a lot in Government to reduce the barriers to entry for SMEs but there is still more to do. There is a willingness and a desire within Government and an understanding that the SME agenda can help with savings and increasing value. What we need to work on is turning this desire into action, empowering commissioners and procurement people to take risks and to do things differently.

We’ve done a lot of work in recent years to influence the procurement directives and regulations and give procurers greater flexibility, now is the time to make use of that flexibility and deliver the best commercial decisions for our departments and local authorities.

  1. Three things an SME should do to be successful in winning a public sector contract?

 I’d say the three man things are to Play to your Strengths, Look Good in the Exam and remember, Evidence Matters.

Playing to your Strengths is about highlighting what you are good at as an SME. Use the premarket engagement to show your flexibility, innovation and speed by reacting quickly to questions, offering options and evidence of where you’ve responded to change in the past.

Understand that no matter how good you are you will not win unless you make these strengths clear on paper too. Think of it as an exam and your opportunity to impress Read the question and make sure you answer it. It sounds simple but you’d be surprised how many bids are suppliers trying to just shoehorn generic information into the boxes and nothing more. If you’ve not bid for public sector work before and are a bit daunted, ask for help.

Finally, cite evidence in your bid. If you say your system will show or do something, prove it: include a screenshot of how it works or other tangible evidence.

  1. Any further plans to make it even easier for a SME to do business with the government?

 Building on the excellent development of the Digital Marketplace, an integrated system to better support the end to end delivery of managed services, is a priority. Greater levels of automation including simple and easy to use catalogues is key to improving efficiency, effectiveness, reducing cost and making it easier to buy from smaller businesses.

We also need to a be a bit smarter about how we approach things. We’ve achieved an awful lot across Government in the last few years but now is the time to focus our efforts a little more and look at where we can make a real and significant difference.

  1. Last thoughts?

 We’ve achieved an awful lot over the last few years and Government can feel proud of how far we’ve come. That was just phase one though, we’ve got the data, we’ve got the processes and the will. Now we’re starting out on phase two, it’s going to be a challenge but if we at CCS can do our bit, we have our own internal 35% target, and departments work with us to break up their big contracts where appropriate and make use of our new systems etc, we can deliver. SMEs will win more business and government will get increased value for money. It won’t be easy, but we can do it, together.

What to Consider when Measuring ROI on Supplier Diversity

ROI is the most common measure used to evaluate performance by measuring the output of the investment on a particular programme or operation. With regards to Supplier Diversity (or Inclusive Procurement), ROI as a measure is something that is often talked about from interested stakeholders who have invested time and resources in engaging with Ethnic Minority Businesses (EMBs’) as part of their Supplier Diversity programmes.  As Supplier Diversity is part of the Corporate Sustainability agenda (not stand alone as in the US) in the UK there is often the perception that ROI on programmes is hard to determine. This can be attributed to a number of factors such as:

  • The maturity of the programmes in the UK compared to other countries particularly the US where Supplier Diversity has been practice for over four decades.
  • The lack of data collection and reporting on UK programmes.
  • Low number of opportunities provided to EMBs’ that engage with large organisations as part of Supplier Diversity programmes.    

All these factors make ROI on Supplier Diversity challenging and need to be addressed to provide a clearer picture for UK programmes.

Knowing what to measure

Supplier Diversity in the UK is slowly becoming more prominent, large organisations have realised the potential of engaging with ethnic minority, women owned, disable and LGBT businesses. Research by the Hackett Group revealed that companies with well-established supplier diversity programmes have been able to ‘generate 133% greater return on the cost of procurement operations’. This indicates that engagement with minority suppliers can increase value and lead to greater returns. The basis of successful supplier diversity programmes are rooted on sound metrics that evaluate effectiveness of in relation to ROI. A successful supplier diversity programme will have a positive effect on operational outcomes but also on overall business performance.

For those organisations whose programmes are not as well-established or in their early stages there is pressure to demonstrate that supplier diversity provides value on investment, to achieve this those in charge with delivery will have to measure a number of factors in order to quantify supplier diversity’s return on investment. Therefore in order to establish whether a supplier diversity programme is successful in relation to ROI it is important to measure:

  • The representation of underrepresented groups in the supply chain
  • The number of biding opportunities provided to minority businesses
  • Total spend with minority businesses
  • The number of minority business enterprises that have been successful in the biding process
  • The operational and business impact from engaging with minority businesses (Value/Cost reduction)
  • The impact of supplier diversity on revenue or market share

 Moving beyond Measuring

Measuring outputs on Supplier Diversity programmes is important however, large organisations need to take into consideration other forms of engagement with minority suppliers that cannot be measured by the conventional ROI formula. Investment in Supplier Diversity programmes can take other forms that move away from purely transactional practices and are supportive of minority business but can also be beneficial in the long term for large organisations. For example by identifying innovative minority businesses and taking a more active role in their development, large business can foster partnerships that will increase knowledge spill-overs and create a more reliable business environment for themselves. Furthermore playing a role in creating the architecture to develop EMBs into large business also becomes a smart procurement practice.

There are some clear instances within the MSDUK network that corporate members are focusing on a more encompassing form of engagement with a strong emphasis on minority supplier development and a more recent example of this is the ‘Pitch Perfect’ event organised by corporate members in collaboration with MSDUK. Large organisations engaged with minority suppliers have realised that for their supplier diversity programme to be successful in the UK they will have to develop a multifaceted relationship with minority businesses and focus on:

  • Helping diverse suppliers improve their capability through mentoring and training
  • Participating in diverse supplier organisation events. (Meet the buyer/Supplier, Networking round tables)
  • Enable one to one introductions to increase supplier development & engagement

MSDUK is in the process of developing a Supplier Diversity Benchmarking Tool, to be launched at the MSDUK 2016 Conference, which will enable organisations to asses he effectiveness of their supplier diversity programme and measure ROI. This online tool, developed in partnership with Accenture and CVM Solutions, will be the first ever benchmarking tool to asses supplier diversity effectiveness and will also rank individual programmes with best in class and provide support in form of consultancy, for programme improvement.



MSDUK and the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy in Leicester are working to inspire the next Generation of Entrepreneurs


The Peter Jones Enterprise Academy was founded in 2009 by entrepreneur and star of Dragons’ Den, Peter Jones CBE, with a view to encourage more entrepreneurial activity in the UK based on a philosophy of ‘learning by doing’.

At Leicester College, the Academy has been running since 2012 and aims to equip young entrepreneurs with the skills and confidence to realise their business dreams. The Academy delivers specialist courses in enterprise and entrepreneurship taking a very practical, hands-on approach to preparing students for success in the business world. Key aspect of this hands on training is by partnering with local businesses and entrepreneurs that provides short term work placements, deliver guest lectures and provide mentoring to students.

The pioneering qualifications on offer focus entirely on furthering the aspirations of young entrepreneurs aged 16 and over, who have the determination to turn their ideas into reality and start their own businesses.

At Minority Supplier Development UK, we are committed to inspire and mentor next generation entrepreneurs and working with Peter Jones Academy at Leicester College provides us the perfect opportunity to support these young budding entrepreneurs with business skills and intelligence.

As we celebrate 10 years of MSDUK, we are partnering with the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy at Leicester College to provide their current cohort of 34 students, access to a live case study. Students will take MSDUK 2016 Conference as the case study for their Brand Development and Promotion unit where the remit is to develop a marketing, social media and PR strategy to promote the conference. Students will have access to Mayank Shah, CEO, MSDUK and a select group of local entrepreneurs who will give them support and mentoring through guest lectures. Students will work in groups to develop a marketing strategy for the MSDUK conference and will present their proposal to a group of judges at the end. The four winning students will be invited to attend the MSDUK 10 year Celebration Reception held in London in Sept 2016 where their efforts will be recognised and they will also have the opportunity to network with over 200 entrepreneurs and corporate executives.

Rupinder Drew, Business Development Manager, Leicester College, said “It is incredibly exciting for our students to have the chance to work on a live brief during which they will meet some key players involved with MSDUK. This opportunity shows that working with employers has huge benefits both for the College and the employer.”

Speaking about this unique partnership, Mayank Shah, CEO. MSDUK said, ‘we are delighted to work with the Academy at Leicester College to support these exceptionally bright young people who aspire to become entrepreneurs. These young people are lifeline of our economy and helping them realise their dreams is something we are very proud of at MSDUK. We look forward to building on this relationship and keep working with future cohorts.

HS2 Supply Chain Roadshows


MSDUK invites all ethnic minority led businesses across the country to attend the regional HS2 Supply Chain Roadshows 2016, to gain information about upcoming opportunities on the biggest infrastructure project in Europe, HS2.

Starting in May, HS2 Ltd will visit 11 regions across Britain to meet businesses large and small, to explain the types of work packages that will be available and to advise firms on how to get in the best position to bid for billions of pounds worth of contracts with HS2.

You can register your place at these free events and find out more information about the roadshows at

MSDUK will be exhibiting at a number of these roadshows to meet Tier 1 Contractors and other local businesses to extend support and discuss the services we offer.

HS2 will be Britain’s new high speed railway, providing fast, frequent and reliable services, connecting eight of our largest cities. It will be a catalyst for growth across the country, and is the biggest and most ambitious infrastructure project in Europe.