The renewal of ICN

October 5th, 2020

Helen Spencer, Director of Development at Great Places shares her thoughts and reflections and hard work that resulted in the renewed ICN framework.

Looking back over the renewal of our construction framework, I feel a sense of pride at the collaborative way in which we undertook such a huge project. Just over a year ago, Joanne Whitehead, Nick Gornall and I sat together half excited, half daunted at the scale of the task ahead. We had huge ambitions to make this framework better than the last, capture the learning from the past four years and ensure it was adapted to suit the ambitions and expectations of our peer organisations now.

Our key objectives were to create a well-used framework, designed and led by a housing association (Great Places) for other housing associations, which works effectively for suppliers and achieves a well-balanced approach to quality, price and social value. We worked on the principle that if it would work for Great Places, our peers, and supply chain then it had every chance of success. We were also fortunate to have the support of our procurement colleagues as we set off on this journey.

Client and supplier feedback was our next step. We quickly established we had a strong baseline from which to build. There was lots of positivity from the sector and ideas from within our own team and other organisations about how we could adapt what we already had. The biggest suggestion came from our Homes for the North peers who proposed a pan-Northern approach, rather than solely focusing on the North West. We also discussed different consultant lots, call-off processes and the introduction of Modern Method of Construction (MMC) routes to market.

Roll forward into late summer 2019 and we were in the midst of shaping a new framework structure. We had new lots to design, new standard house types to prepare, specifications to update, new service briefs to write, and we updated numerous processes, contracts, legal documents and our design guide. We also designed a new mechanism for social value capture and a Dynamic Purchasing System for MMC to sit alongside the framework.

It was a real root and branch review of the framework, enhanced with the input from our network and capturing every bit of learning we could. We could not have achieved this without the input and support of our procurement colleagues, development team and peers, lots of challenge and debate to find solutions. We were also thankful for legal support from Trowers and Hamlins.

We held framework supplier and MMC provider days in the autumn to share our progress, proposals and to gather further feedback. Attendance was fantastic, engagement was excellent and we came away with some key thoughts and ideas on how we could improve the drafts further. One example mooted was that we introduced new combined lots for Principal Designers to sit alongside Architect and Employer’s Agent services – a loud and clear challenge in the room!

The framework was released on target in mid November 2019 and we saw a 56% uplift in bidders (compared to 2016) when the tenders were returned in January 2020. With the assistance of colleagues in other organisations, we evaluated a massive 726 bids, a huge undertaking for the team who worked tirelessly to ensure we gave every bid the time and attention it deserved. Across the piece, the quality of submissions was high, the social value proposals strong and pricing competitive. Thank you to everyone who took the time to apply, and to those who took time to recognise the complexity and thoroughness of our approach.

I’m really pleased to announce that we now have 113 successful suppliers, including 30 Contractors and 83 Consultants offering a range of professional services. The new ICN framework will be officially launched on 4 July 2020 and we look forward to welcoming all suppliers to work with Great Places Housing Group and our peer Housing Association client members.

Our ICN framework will enable us to deliver against our ambitious Development programme, while also supporting our colleagues and peers in other organisations with similar ambitions to deliver much needed new homes and collectively tackle the housing crisis.

For more information about how to access the framework, or to understand our ambitious development programme, please get in touch.

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