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Rachel Murphy
April 5, 2019

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Here lies Rachel Murphy, the one that banged on about Multi-Vendor Delivery for a decade or two.

My love affair with the concept of multi-vendor delivery started at DfE. This was my first CIO role after a brief touch down at GDS before I was despatched off to a department to do some heavy lifting, back in 2013.

This was the era for many substantial outsourced deals — I was working alongside James Findlay at DfE, coming out of a Fujitsu deal using the Wardley mapping for the 1st time (publicly at least) and at DfE we had some relatively large (real world but small for Gov) outsourced bits to Cap Geminiand of course the CL1 contract in play with Capita bodies at every turn.

But, back to MVD. This was the tail end of the SIAM model (Service Integration and Management is an approach to managing multiple suppliers of services and integrating them to provide a single business-facing IT organisation) being pushed heavily out of GDS, and I picked up a really well run commercial function that had adopted it. They hadn’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater (outsourced the management of the model as well). Albeit, a slightly grey-suited and a ‘computer says no’ approach rather than ‘let’s work together across commercial and digital to make this happen’. I later found a more agile approach to procurement with David Pierce, Anthony Rybicki and later, David Kershaw at the NHS. That being said, the team were in good shape commercially.

I established, for the first time (to my knowledge across gov, but someone may correct me), outcome-based delivery on zero value contracts using GCloud and we got motoring. I had some help from the GDS lads; Tom Bryant and David Best who were shaping up an operating model for GDS at that time, looking to implement something similar. This model allowed me to move at pace and deliver into gaps on an outcome basis. Outcomes were not as clean as they now are with the advent of DOS, but that wasn’t around then. There was a handful of vendors working together (ish), even if I forced their hand to make this happen; Russam, Zaizi, Bramble (called something else then), Eduserve and Provisio (went on to become Difrent). At a guess, £10m of outcomes were let during my time at DfE across IT and Digital — an 18 month period.

I remained in the public sector side of the table in C-Level roles and adopted similar models at The National Archives and the Nursing & Midwifery Council — more arm’s length and regulator so we didn’t need to follow Gov model, although I often find it slower outside of the processes Gov have established!

My first real opportunity to implement MVD at scale came five years on when I arrived in Health for the 3rd time (social care and regulator), but the first time that close to the centre of the action! At NHS Digital this was a massive challenge for us. Empower the Person was needing to crank the service delivery at such speed that using perm staff (120 FTE looking after NHS Choices at that stage) and interims through Capita and services on an individual basis just wasn’t enough. NHS Digital ran a ‘local DOS’ service that in my opinion wasn’t leveraging the real power of the DOS framework and was dominated by 4 or 5 suppliers at that time. Worth noting this has since moved on and I’m delighted to see Futuregov in and delivering for Urgent and Emergency care with Sam Shah. The reality was, I had a sizeable budget, and we had probably 200 perm people augmented with a further 150 heads through multi suppliers. These suppliers were bought into the case for change and the vision for the domain that Juliet Bauer and Janet Hughes had led (Polly Bishop and Tara Donnelly now in the hot seat). I would be lying if I said you could look across the floor and see people and vendors all playing nicely together, but the ambition was there to start this journey! As I was leaving NHSD, the 4 or 5 had been augmented with an additional 4 or 5, and the frameworks were being used wider which has been awesome to see.

As I’m now wearing a Difrent hat, we work with other SME’s to deliver services in ‘public good’ organisations. Difrent have worked with Vix on PHE, we have jointly bid with Red Badger and Torchbox and are openly discussing operations with MadeTech and FutureGov. I’m not going to hark on about that as not point of this blog!

Where I am hearing great things about multi-vendor delivery, and I would be super keen to understand more, is Homes England. This is a particularly unusual model with a CDO and CEO at the helm, his company (Futuregov) have come in with plenty of others, all working together. Worth saying, I suspect I will have to (and will want to) do a similar gig to the one Dominichas done over the next 12 Months (hint hint to any CEOs reading this).

Hackney has worked this way for a while under Rob Miller, his novel approach of an open letter to suppliers kicked this off a couple of years ago http://hackit.org.uk/work-with-us/suppliers/an-open-letter-to-suppliers, and it’s a powerful model which forces SME’s to be on their toes. Winning a Discovery doesn’t automatically imply you are in for Alpha and Beta, nor should it! We must all earn our stripes and your strength may be in one area, not end-to-end. Croydon and Hackney have lots of vendors in and this is forcing great competition with SME’s and driving up delivery for them, assessing why the solution hasn’t been flexible. I’d love the chance to sit down with Rob and discuss his insights into this!

Croydon Council under Neil Williams stewardship seems to have taken the same approach as well as has Rob Miller with the London Borough of Hackney. Croydon has a desire to work with small and medium-sized enterprises, as they realise that these entities are the ‘primary creators of new jobs’. In this strategy, they move to create a single SME support service and will encourage small businesses to get involved in their tender opportunities. What I find most impressive, is that Croydon specifically asks their larger suppliers to subcontract with local suppliers where possible.

I still think ‘client first’. For me, the art of this is in; ensuring delivery at pace, expertise and cross training, and development of permanent staff who will ultimately (should) run the live service.

I’ll close with an ask to friends at CCS about when and if multi-vendor delivery is on their agenda — surely C-Level Leaders are pushing for this by now! This would genuinely allow SME’s to rival the bigger boys and girls with end-to-end service delivery capability!


Co-written by Rachel Murphy — Difrent CEO
@rachel0404
& Hamid Yafai — Difrent Senior Consultant

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