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.