Journal of Service Science and Management, 2011, 4, 325-333
doi:10.4236/jssm.2011.43038 Published Online September 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSSM
Why Collaborate on Local Government
Procurement? The Experience of UK Councils*
J. Gordon Murray1#, Peter G. Rentell2, Tina Holland2, Steven Locker2
1Dr Gordon Murray Ltd., Lisburn, UK; 2Local Government Group, London, UK.
Received June 11th, 2011; revised July 28th, 2011; accepted August 15th, 2011.
Within the UK public sector considerable encouragement has been given to working collaboratively on procurement.
Although purchasing consortia have been a feature of the UK local government landscape and a shared services model
has begun to emerge, little empirical research has been reported on whether other procurement collaborations take
place, why organisations collaborate on procurement projects, what are the perceived risks and what type of procure-
ment projects are considered suitable for collaboration. This paper reports on explorative research, to establish the
answer to those questions. Suggestions are made for those considering procurement collaborative projects and further
Keywords: Collaboration, Public Procurement, Procurement Strategy, Procurement Organ i sation and Structure
1. Introduction
Discussion on procurement collaboration is generally
concerned with “buyer and seller” vertical collaboration
(for example, [1-5]. More recently that discussion has
been supplemented with debating the benefits to be
gained through horizontal inter-organisational collabora-
tion with others through joining a consortium [6-12] or
inter-organisation collaboration on shared services [13].
Within the UK public sector considerable encourage-
ment has been given recently to working collaboratively
on procurement, for example, the National Procurement
Strategy for local government [14] the Efficiency Review
[15] and Transformational Government [16]. There is a
working assumption, from a policy perspective that col-
laboration is a good thing, yet there remains little evi-
dence of what collaboration can extend to, beyond con-
sortia and shared services.
The paper probes perceived potential areas for col-
laboration. It is concerned with the question of why pub-
lic procurement organisations decide to collaborate on
procurement projects. Procurement projects can be de-
fined as a “management environment that is created for
the purpose of delivering one or more business products
according to a specified Business Case” or “a temporary
organisation that is needed to produce a unique and pre-
defined outcome or result at a pre-specified time using
predetermined resources [17]. Procurement projects are
different from consortia or shared services in that pro-
jects have a start, a finish and an objective, while consor-
tia and shared services are founded on the “going con-
cern concept” [18].
The paper provides an overview of intra-organisational
centralised/decentralised structures and inter-organisa-
tional consortia. It then provides an explanation of Pro-
curement as a shared service, prior to providing case
study evidence of five regional collaborations, identify-
ing the benefits, risk and priorities for collaboration on
procurement projects.
The paper contributes to theory by demonstrating,
through explorative research, that a portfolio of collabo-
ration options are open, including consortia, shared ser-
vices and collaboration on procurement projects, which
are complementary and not mutually exclusive. It pro-
vides evidence of the perceptions regarding the rationale,
risks and priorities for procurement collaborative pro-
It contributes to practice by widening the scope of
collaborations and suggesting potential opportunities,
beyond consortia and shared services which could help in
achieving efficiency gains.
To provide a backdrop against which collaboration on
procurement projects can be compared, the next section
*The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those
of Local Government Group.
Why Collaborate on Local Government Procurement? The Experience of UK Councils
discusses existing procurement structural options referred
to in the literature.
2. Procurement Organisation Structural
2.1. Intra-Organisational Procurement
Structural Models
A long-standing debate on Procurement organisational
structure (going back at least until 1991 [19-21] has re-
volved around whether intra-organisational centralisation
or decentralisation of the function is best, and how to
harness internal co-ordination and collaboration. At one
end of the spectrum sits the centralised model, a corpo-
rate conduit controlling procurement strategy and opera-
tional purchasing. Potentially such a unit could be posi-
tioned nationally or regionally, but most often it is at the
level of the organisation. The rationale behind a central-
ised structural model is that it enables the organisation to
concentrate its professional Procurement expertise in one
place, maximise its internal organisational “leverage”
and therefore extract the best deals from the market
through the application of power. In parallel, having said
that, such a structure is predicated on being able to have
a business case justification and being able to recruit and
retain appropriate Procurement professionals. However,
centralisation is negatively associated with sacrificing
“budget holder autonomy”. In addition, with a nationally
centralised unit, one of the drawbacks is that it can clash
with the political and socio-economic priorities of the
local council and its local/regional/national/global pro-
curement options appraisal [22]. At the opposite end of
the spectrum a decentralised structure has the corre-
sponding pros and cons. “In practice it is seldom [decen-
tralisation or centralisation] alone which is required but
a blend of both [19].
In what could be perceived as a compromise, a de-
volved structure emerged [23,24]. Primarily the model
represents a shift to a ‘virtual’ Procurement organisation.
The model aims to reap the benefits of both functional
excellence, traditionally associated with a centralised
organisation, at the same time gaining the coordination
and economies of scale of a decentralised organisation.
Van Weele and Rozemeijer [23] consider the model to be
particularly appropriate to non-production areas, “where
buying is of an ad-hoc nature, and where specific exper-
tise is needed temporarily. In such situations it does not
make sense to build up specific technical expertise within
the Procurement function but instead to create the correct
environment to ensure that cross-functional teams have
the mix of expertise when it is required. The devolved
model comprise of a central, small team of professionals
responsible for the procurement process, procurement
information systems, procurement strategy, strategic re-
lationships, professional development, training and man-
agement development programmes. Operational pur-
chasing is devolved to specific departments and com-
prises those with technical expertise of “what is bought”
Effectively the devolved operational staff represent a
quasi-Procurement team while remaining specialists in
their own disciplines; they join with the central core to
deliver their business specific procurement needs and are
agents in effecting strategic procurement change.
The assumption underlying the centralised/decentral-
ised discussion is that there will always be access to
Procurement expertise within the organisation, yet anec-
dotal evidence suggests that is not always the case. A
parallel assumption is that there will always been suffi-
cient internal demand inside the organisation to justify
the employment of a Procurement professional, yet for
smaller councils such a business case may not exist.
2.2. Consortia
A purchasing consortium consists of two or more inde-
pendent organisations that join together, either formally
or informally, or through an independent third party, for
the purpose of combining their individual requirements
for purchased materials, services, and capital goods to
leverage more value-added pricing, service, and tech-
nology from their external suppliers than could be ob-
tained if each firm purchased goods and services alone
Fundamentally a consortium is a means of outsourcing
tactical purchasing. Purchasing consortia have been a
feature of the UK local government landscape since the
development of the Consortium of Local Authorities
Special Programme in 1957 [26] but have recently gained
much wider prominence.
There are an infinite array of variations within consor-
tia [6-12] although these have a focus on harnessing
combined leverage through tactical purchasing, for ex-
ample bidding, supplier evaluation, negotiation and con-
tract management [9] as opposed to wider strategic pro-
curement roles. Their primary aim is cost reduction [9]
[27] although cost reduction can mean not just lower
prices but also lower transaction costs and reduced lead
times [28].
Larger councils may choose to join a consortia having
completed a cost/benefit analysis and decided that, within
a make/buy option appraisal, the “make” (direct con-
tracting) option is outweighed by the “buy” (access con-
sortia contracts). The larger council may also have the
expertise available to evaluate and engage with a portfo-
lio of consortia. However, for smaller councils, which
may not have access to Procurement professionals who
could put in place framework arrangements, consortia are
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSSM
Why Collaborate on Local Government Procurement? The Experience of UK Councils327
perceived as a cost effective way of streamlining the
purchasing process and accessing greater purchasing
2.3. Procurement as a Shared Service
While the above were the perceived extent of structural
organisational options for Procurement, Murray, et al.,
[13], reporting on developments within UK local gov-
ernment, demonstrated that a further structural model
was emerging, that of Procurement as a shared service.
A Procurement shared service is one in which a num-
ber of councils jointly employ their own dedicated pro-
curement specialist, sharing the costs, agreeing the pri-
orities and managing performance. Effectively a shared
service provides access to a Procurement specialist when
the employment of such an individual would not other-
wise have been considered justifiable or cost effective.
The shared service can provide aggregated buying, in a
similar way to a consortium, but, much more importantly,
they should go beyond that tactical role and provide stra-
tegic procurement know-how for the collaborating coun-
cils. That know-how could assist in deciding in what
circumstances the use of consortia is appropriate but also
in providing a dedicated professional specialist, when
required, to each of the participating councils and have
the employing organisations priorities uppermost. Murray,
et al., [38] research found evidence of councils claiming
the following benefits gained through a shared service:
increased purchasing power/leverage, standardised con-
ditions of contract, common documentation, gaining ac-
cess to others’ expertise, sharing best practice and avoid-
ing “reinventing the wheel”. A Procurement shared ser-
vice has the potential to maximise the benefits of both
the intra-organisational hard core/soft core model and
inter-organisational consortia participation, and is par-
ticularly relevant to smaller councils who may not oth-
erwise have a business case justification for the employ-
ment of a Procurement specialist.
The next section provides a wider perspective on the
advantages and disadvantages of collaboration.
3. A Wider Perspective on Collaboration
Huxham and Vangen’s [29] observation is that there are
a number of common rationale for collaboration: Access
to resources, shared risk, efficiency, co-ordination and
seamlessness, learning and the moral imperative – there
is no other way.
Having said that, Huxham and Vangen [29] arrived at:
“The overwhelming conclusion from our research is
that seeking collaborative advantage is a seriously re-
source-consuming activity so is only to be considered
when stakes are really worth pursuing. Our message to
practitioners and policy makers alike is dont do it unless
you have to.”
Such a view echoes Nollet and Beaulieu’s [9] need for
a strong business case and identification of both bene-
fits and risks prior to progressing any collaboration.
Huxham and Vangen [29], referring to the need to
build trust over time and manage expectations, argue that
there is a need to ‘start small’ and incrementally build on
those successes:
“Where possible, try to begin by setting yourselves
some small, achievable tasks. Build up mutual trust
gradually through achieving mutual small wins. If the
stakes are high, you may need a more comprehensive
trust-building approach.
Each time partners act together, they take a risk and
form expectations about the intended outcome and the
way others contribute to achieving it. Each time an out-
come meets expectations, trusting attitudes are reinforced.
The outcome becomes part of the history of the relation-
ship, so increasing the chance that partners will have
positive expectations about joint actions in the future.
The increased trust reduces the sense of risk for these
future actions.”
Murray, et al. [13], when discussing a shared services
approach, also argued there was a need to build up trust
over time through demonstration of meaningful achieve-
This paper now considers the implications drawn from
4. Implications from Theory
Procuring organisations have potential to benefit from
collaboration. Collaboration is however considered to be
a high risk and not recommended unless a cost/benefit
analysis has demonstrated the anticipated benefits can
not be achieved through alternative routes [13,29].
It can therefore be inferred that alternative routes of
making gains should be pursued prior to inter-organisa-
tional collaboration. Logically the first strategy to ex-
haust is that of extracting gains from intra-organisational
collaboration; the hard core/soft core approach to Pro-
curement [9] appears to provide the benefits of effec-
tively applying Procurement expertise to gain coordina-
tion and economies of scale, and to improve procurement
processes, information systems, strategy, strategic rela-
tionships, professional development and training.
However, intra-organisational economies of scale are
constrained, therefore supplementing intra-organisational
collaboration with inter-organisational consortia provide
further scope for cost reduction through increased pur-
chasing leverage [6-25].
For smaller organisations intra-organisational collabo-
ration may be constrained through the absence of a Pro-
curement professional to corral, find and access inter-
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSSM
Why Collaborate on Local Government Procurement? The Experience of UK Councils
organisational consortia. A Procurement shared service
can assist in closing that gap. A shared service can de-
liver cost reductions through maximising the collabora-
tion’s buying leverage in addition to accessing, where
appropriate, consortia. Furthermore there is evidence of
shared services gaining benefits from standardising con-
ditions of contract and documentation, and gaining ac-
cess to others’ expertise [30].
Therefore, it can be inferred that intra-organisational
hard core/soft core, consortia, and procurement shared
services all support Huxham and Vangen’s [29] rational
for collaborating, namely, gaining access to resources,
reducing risk, efficiency, coordination and seamlessness,
and learning. Indeed, the above provide an incremental
route map to the theoretical need to build trust and pro-
vide demonstrable evidence over time [13,29].
Having said that, does inter-organisational collabora-
tion have to be restricted to consortia and shared services?
This paper seeks to establish is there additional scope for
collaboration, on procurement projects. There is a gap in
empirical research as to “why and on what” procurement
inter-organisational collaboration takes place, beyond
consortia and shared services; what are practitioners per-
ceived risks, benefits and priorities? This paper reports
on exploratory research to find some of the answers. It is
aimed specifically at inter-organisational collaboration
on procurement projects, outside the scope of consortia
and shared services.
The next section sets out the research approach used
and provides some background to the participants.
5. Methods
This research is explorative. Exploratory research is use-
ful when there is an absence of prior research. The re-
search does not start with “a blank sheet of paper” but
instead considers the appropriateness of existing theories
and their applicability to the problem under investigation.
In the context of this investigation the literature review
served as an appropriate means of identifying existing
theories which were drawn together as implications from
theory. Exploratory research is rarely conclusive; through
considering patterns, ideas or hypotheses rather than
testing or confirming a hypothesis it provides insights
suitable for subsequent more rigorous investigation [31-
The paper provides case study evidence, on expecta-
tions from collaborating.
Key research questions are:
1) What are the perceived and additional benefits, that
couldn’t otherwise be achieved, of collaborating on pro-
curement projects?
2) What are the perceived risks of collaborating and
not collaborating?
3) What type of procurement projects are considered
appropriate for collaboration?
Those participating had expressed a desire to region-
ally explore the potential for collaboration; therefore they
had previously demonstrated willingness, in spirit, to
collaborate and are a purposive sample of 32 English
councils spanning five collaborations:
“Purposive sampling is a type of non-probability sam-
pling method in which the researcher uses his or her own
judgement in the selection of sample members. It is
sometimes called a judgemental sample [31].
Purposive sampling involves choosing people whose
views are relevant to an issue because you make a judge-
ment, and/or your collaborators persuade you that their
views are particularly worth obtaining and typify impor-
tant varieties of viewpoint [34].
Purposive sampling allows us to choose a case because
it illustrates some feature or process in which we are in-
terested [35].”
Web-based questionnaires and facilitated workshops
were used.
Due to the workshop nature it was decided to limit the
number of participants to twenty-five and therefore iden-
tifying the core participants from each authority was im-
portant. Each of the participating councils was therefore
asked to nominate three participants for the collaboration
project, to include the officer procurement champion and
officer responsible for procurement strategy development
and implementation. Other potential nominees could in-
clude internal audit staff or finance staff. Drawing from a
wide cross-section of stakeholders from each council,
although not including politicians, hoped to protect
against purchasing manager myopia and improve the
validity [36,37].
Prior to the workshops each delegate was sent a web-
based questionnaire which sought to establish, through
open-ended questions, which included:
1) Their perceived aims for the collaboration as a
whole, that is, what the collaboration should set as pri-
mary aims;
2) What they perceived the collaboration can do that
the individual council can’t do;
3) What were the existing areas of coordination and
collaboration between those councils participating in the
4) What were their immediate priorities for the col-
5) How coordinated is purchasing within their council
(for example framework arrangements);
a) Categories of contracts let;
b) Expiry dates of above;
6) What use they made of existing framework agree-
ments (from other councils).
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSSM
Why Collaborate on Local Government Procurement? The Experience of UK Councils329
The responses from the questionnaires enabled each
discrete workshop to be tailored by the individual par-
ticipants’ views, which may not have been expressed in
an open forum.
At the workshop, following an introduction to col-
laboration, summary feedback was provided from the
pre-workshop questionnaires on participants’ collabora-
tion aims. Those prompts were then used by workshop
groups to reach agreement, but not necessarily consensus,
on aims, priorities and timescales for inter-organisational
The outputs were analysed utilising “pattern matching”
[38] against the pre-determined research questions.
The unit of analysis regarding “benefits” is the indi-
vidual council, while for “risks’” and “priorities” the unit
of analysis is each of the five collaborations.
The research is explorative and therefore generalisa-
tions beyond those collaborations reported should be
made, only with caution.
6. The Cases
The cases represent a diverse mix, spend, geographically,
size and type of councils. However, each of the collabo-
rations had some previous experience of collaborating
and therefore, it can be assumed, built up some trust.
Of those councils participating in the research, 46%
were districts; 55% had a corporate procurement unit led
by a professional head of procurement –45% didn’t or
didn’t know; 94% had a corporate procurement strategy
and 73% had procurement strategies which set out their
approach to collaboration; 79%, at that time, had been
collaborating with other councils; 90% made use of con-
sortia and 77% made use of public sector frameworks
6.1. Collaboration A
Collaboration A was between nine councils. Two of the
districts had previously opted to deliver Procurement as a
shared-service and participated in Murray, et als. [13]
research. Prior to this research there had been previous
examples of collaboration, although that had generally
been between two or three councils. Examples of previ-
ous collaborations included a joint P2P system. The ma-
jority of those in the collaboration made use of consortia
and other public sector framework arrangements. A re-
gional procurement officer group met regularly.
6.2. Collaboration B
Collaboration B was between three councils. All three of
the councils had a history of collaboration with each
other, for example, they jointly procured a spend analysis
and, at the time of the investigation, were working on a
joint telecommunications strategy. Two of the councils
make use of an e-marketplace.
6.3. Collaboration C
Collaboration C comprised five councils. Those partici-
pating were a sub-group of a wider procurement officer
network, comprising county and district councils, police,
fire and NHS bodies.
6.4. Collaboration D
Collaboration D comprised ten councils. All of the coun-
cils had a long history of working collaboratively. Unlike
the other cases, this collaboration participated in the pro-
ject with a pre-defined e-procurement collaborative ob-
jective project in mind.
6.5. Collaboration E
Collaboration E comprised five councils. Four of the five
councils use the same core financials platform.
7. Findings
7.1. Perceived Benefits of Participating in
Collaboration and Added Value through
The responses generally echoed the rationale put forward
by Huxham and Vangen [29] for collaboration, namely,
access to resources, efficiency, coordination and seam-
lessness, and learning. While none of the participants
identified sharing best practice as a perceived benefit,
25% recognised that as something which in the absence
of collaboration would not otherwise be achieved. Other
significant findings were the comparatively close corre-
lation between perceived benefits and unique collabora-
tion benefits gained on shared back office cost reductions
and, standardisation of contract and specifications. This
would suggest that the participants felt that they had
reached a ceiling of what improvement that could be
achieved elsewhere. 55% of the participant organisations
had a Procurement Unit led by a Procurement profes-
sional but only 9% of the participants felt the only way of
gaining access to experience and capability lay in col-
laboration; the assumption is made that 16% of those
who envisaged this as a collaborative benefit had identi-
fied other potential options. It may also be relevant that
since 90% of the participants already made use of con-
sortia and 77% made use of other public sector frame-
work arrangements.
Surprisingly none of the participants identified shared
risk as a benefit.
However, what does appear to have been presented is
at least a business case rationale for collaborating on
procurement projects which goes some way to satisfying
Huxham and Vangen [29] and, Nollet and Beaulieu [9]
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSSM
Why Collaborate on Local Government Procurement? The Experience of UK Councils
7.2. Perceived Risks
Huxham and Vangen [29] and, Nollet and Beaulieu [9]
highlighted that collaboration is not easy. Across the five
workshops there was no consistency regarding the per-
ceived risks of collaboration.
Huxham and Vangen [29] suggested that each time
parties act together they take a risk, a risk that the others
may not honour their commitments. 75% identified a
potential conflict of priorities between those of the col-
laboration and the participating individual councils in
that this could lead to their participating councils indi-
vidual priorities being subsumed by others. This empha-
sises the importance of ensuring that those negotiating
collaborations have the required authority to act as agents
of their organisation. It appears an anomaly that none of
the participants viewed the risk of others not honouring
their commitments to the collaboration as a risk. 50%
identified a lack of control over their own council’s be-
haviour as a riskin other words they were concerned
whether they had the authority to act as the principal and
whether they could actually sell the commitments which
they made back at their own council.
There was much more consensus on the risks of NOT
collaborating. All expressed a risk of ‘standing still and
getting left behind’, and duplication of effort.
75% perceived not collaborating risked higher costs,
efficiencies not being achieved and forgone benefit of
wider expertise and loss of learning opportunities gained
from others.
50% expressed concern that they’d potentially miss
out on best practice and there’d be a lost opportunity of
7.3. Identified Priorities for Collaboration
The workshops were designed to have a practical out-
come, that of agreeing initiatives to collaborate on, then
taking the two which had the highest local priority and
developing action plans for their achievement. The im-
plementation of the action plan is beyond the scope of
this paper.
While caution is required in interpreting the results
owing to the reality that each of the workshop collabora-
tions were starting from different historical backgrounds
and therefore had differing needs, the findings are illus-
trative of what are viewed by councils as potentially
suitable for procurement collaborative action, for exam-
ple, high priority was given to: developing a common
contracts register; a common supplier adoption strategy
for e-procurement; joint e-procurement strategy; com-
mon documentation across the collaborating authorities;
joint use of a supplier portal; joint e-sourcing system;
common pre-qualification system; and common contract
management approach.
8. Discussion and Conclusions
This paper provides an overview of differing approaches
to collaboration on procurement.
The participating authorities had some previous ex-
perience of working collaboratively; and many had Pro-
curement professionals, strategies and collaboration
strategies in place, so making generalisations on the
cases requires caution.
However, the significance of two of the councils
within Collaboration A also having been engaged in
Murray, et al., [13] research on Procurement shared ser-
vices should not be under-estimated as it provides evi-
dence of the same councils making use of three inter-
organisational collaborations types, namely consortia,
shared services and collaboration on procurement pro-
jects. Recognising that confirms councils have a portfolio
of inter-organisational collaboration options, which are
not mutually exclusive, and it is therefore important that,
in seeking to achieve the optimum mix, an extensive op-
tions appraisal is undertaken.
Given that consortia, shared services and project col-
laborations are part of a mix of inter-organisational op-
tions, practitioners should familiarise themselves with the
relative merits and identify the best fit within their pro-
curement strategies.
It can be inferred that intra-organisational collabora-
tion, consortia, and procurement shared services all sup-
port Huxham and Vangen’s [29] rational for collaborat-
ing, namely, gaining access to resources, reducing risk,
efficiency, coordination and seamlessness, and learning.
Indeed, the above provide an incremental route map to
the theoretical need to build trust and provide demon-
strable evidence over time [29].
Collaborations need to be entered into with care, it
therefore makes sense to first maximise the benefits to be
achieved through intra-organisational coordination and
Evaluate the range of potential inter-organisational
collaboration options, including consortia, shared ser-
vices and collaboration on procurement projects to gain
the optimum mix.
Spend time on in-house preparation prior to actively
participating on collaborations and ensure that those ne-
gotiating the collaboration have the appropriate authority
to honour commitments given as a failure to honour
commitments could jeopardise future collaborations.
Determine the costs associated with collaboration and the
benefits to be achieved through collaboration – the added
Adopting an incremental approach to collaboration can
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSSM
Why Collaborate on Local Government Procurement? The Experience of UK Councils331
be expected to reap benefits and reduce risks. Useful
areas worthy of consideration for collaboration on pro-
curement projects include developing a common con-
tracts register, and common documentation across the
collaborating authorities; from that the collaboration
could progress to a common pre-qualification system and
common contract management approaches, followed by a
joint e-procurement strategy, common supplier adoption
strategy for e-procurement, joint use of a supplier portal
and joint e-sourcing system.
At the level of the collaboration, it is suggested that,
priorities should be set at an appropriate level, cognisant
of the level of trust built up from previously working
together; look for convergence of priorities and mutual
gain, ensuring that there is no conflict with participating
councils own individual prioritiessynergy and value
added should be the mantras of the collaborationoth-
erwise they have the potential to be dysfunctional; have
clearly defined objectives for each project with a start
and a finish.
Perceived benefits of collaborating on procurement
projects echoed those previously found with Procurement
shared services, namely, efficiency gains through in-
creased purchasing power/leverage, standardised condi-
tions of contract, common documentation, gaining access
to others’ expertise, sharing best practice and avoiding
“reinventing the wheel”. Other perceived benefits in col-
laborating are reducing back office transaction costs,
standardisation of specifications and networking oppor-
tunities. Therefore the research generally supports [29]
assertions on common rationale for collaboration. It is
considered significant that these perceived benefits are
beyond a number which could be expected from tactical
collaboration through consortia.
Key risks associated with collaboration are the poten-
tial conflict with partners individual priorities, with col-
laboration’s priorities being subsumed by those of the
individual participating council. A further concern is the
risk that those representing the council may not have the
authority to implement agreed outcomes within their own
councils. This emphasises the need to ensure that those
negotiating collaborations should have the required au-
thority and gravitas to carry through commitments to
Opting not to collaborate with others is not risk free -
bearing in mind Huxham and Vagen’s [29] “health
warning” on collaboration, “dont do it unless you have
toit brings with it the potential of “getting left behind”,
missing out on others experience and expertise, duplica-
tion of effort, higher costs, loss of purchasing leverage
and potentially failing to achieve external targets with the
associated the penalty of a lower score in external per-
formance inspections.
Among a wide range of potential collaborative projects,
participants gave priority to developing a common con-
tracts register, standardising on documentation, intro-
ducing a common pre-qualification system and a com-
mon contract management approach, together with a col-
laborative approach to e-procurement strategy (including,
joint use of a supplier portal and a joint e-sourcing sys-
tem). The assumption is that synergies associated with
these priorities out-weighed the associated risks.
9. Conclusions
As pressure increases on UK councils to achieve cost
reductions, it can be expected that there will be a need to
find increasingly innovation means of squeezing the di-
minishing intra-organisational potential. One of the op-
tions open is to increase the scope of inter-organisational
collaboration opportunities through consortia participa-
tion, shared services and procurement projects.
This paper demonstrates, through explorative research,
that a portfolio of collaboration options are open, includ-
ing consortia, shared services and collaboration on pro-
curement projects, which are complementary and not
mutually exclusive, and provides evidence of the percep-
tions regarding the rationale, risks and priorities for pro-
curement collaborative projects.
This research provides evidence that inter-organisa-
tional collaboration on procurement can be beyond par-
ticipation in a consortium or shared servicethere can
be collaboration on procurement projects.
Recognising that portfolio of inter-organisational col-
laboration options, research would be merited which fur-
ther explores the relative merits and appropriateness, and
other options for inclusion in procurement options ap-
Further research would be merited that tests the ex-
plorative findings and their generalisabilty across a range
of projects (procurement and non-procurement). While
the research identified potential areas for collaboration
on procurement projects, further research would be mer-
ited which identifies which types of procurement projects
are not suitable for collaboration, if any. Further research,
through a longitudinal study, would be of benefit that
establishes the dynamics of how collaborations evolve,
the problems encountered and how they’re overcome in
seeking to project manage collaborative projects.
10. Acknowledgements
The support and assistance of the anonymous participants
in this investigation is gratefully acknowledged.
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