Complex market arrangements

Non-traditional methods and complex market engagements could help you tap into innovative new procurement solutions.
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What you need to know
  1. Non-traditional methods can often help you deliver more innovative and cost-effective solutions. You should always consider them where appropriate.
  2. Non-traditional methods include using managed services contracts (MSCs), reverse auctions and direct negotiations.
  3. These methods also often carry greater risk than traditional methods, so you must carry out a proper analysis before proceeding.

1. When to consider a non-traditional method or complex market arrangement

Whenever it’s appropriate, we encourage you to consider using non-traditional procurement methods. These often involve giving suppliers more scope to suggest their own solutions and can:

  • encourage innovation
  • acquire goods and services in a more cost-effective and resource-efficient way.

That said, non-traditional approaches often come with more risk than traditional ones. For this reason, you must always be able to justify why you’ve chosen your approach. You must also follow any relevant agency and government policies and procedures.

So long as you do, you’re likely to find that using these methods of approaching the market open up exciting, even cutting-edge, new ways of procuring goods and services.

2. Managed services contract (MSC)

You can use a managed services contract (MSC) when you’re procuring a total service offering. These are service level agreements that outline both parties’ responsibilities, such as minimum service time and payment terms.

MSCs are becoming increasingly popular for ICT contracts. That’s because ICT ‘as a service’ is replacing the traditional buy/build procurement method and internally-managed procurement process.

Establishing an MSC is a complex task. For this reason, you should always do it with the support of your procurement team or Chief Procurement Officer.
Any MSC you enter needs to be consistent with the Procurement Policy Framework. That means you must always:

  • look to achieve value for money
  • balance risks properly
  • stay mindful of the greater freedoms and responsibilities you’ve been assigned when it comes to procurement, especially if you’re accredited
  • stay consistent with our approach to whole-of-government arrangements.

To minimise some of the risks that come with MSCs, you should also make sure:

  • your MSC agreement explicitly states the full price of the services
  • you can demonstrate that the full cost of the agreement over its life will be lower than the cost of using traditional arrangements
  • your agreement still achieves comparable economy of scale to a whole-of-government arrangement
  • you properly assess any residual value risks, and
  • you understand the Public Authorities (Financial Arrangements) Act 1987 if you intend to include a finance lease.

3. Strategic commissioning


Strategic commissioning involves developing a commissioning system that lets you access, deepen and develop supply markets. In this sense, it’s broader than simply contracting, purchasing or procuring.

Before you engage in strategic commissioning, you should always:

  • conduct a strategic analysis of your needs
  • clearly define your procurement objectives
  • design your commissioning arrangements
  • choose your preferred contract models and service delivery.

Benefits of strategic commissioning


The benefits of strategic commissioning can include:

  • getting better value
  • improved service quality
  • having a simplified tendering system
  • increased accountability and transparency, and
  • more innovative delivery.

Strategic commissioning can also help deliver outcomes-based rather than output-based contracts.

When to use strategic commissioning

You should only use strategic commissioning if you’ve first carried out a proper strategic analysis of your needs. You must also consider the long-term benefits of viable, sustainable and competitive NSW-based industries.

4. Direct negotiation


In special circumstances, you can negotiate directly a supplier without asking it to enter a competitive tender. This is also known as soul sourcing.

You should only use this approach when it’s clear it will deliver the best value for money.

You may find direct negotiation is appropriate when you’ve already held a tender but no tenderer could meet your requirements due to non-conformance gaps. You can also use it when the market consists of just one supplier. However, you should always be careful about making this assessment.

Before negotiating directly you’ll need to get high-level authorisation. You must also take into account ICAC’s Direct Negotiation Guidelines for Managing Risks.

5. Reverse auction

In a reverse auction, bids reduce rather than increase as the auction progresses.

You’d usually carry out a reverse auction via an electronic platform, through which prequalified suppliers can bid.

Traditionally, in a reverse auction, price is the main - or only - consideration for evaluating bids. Where it’s not, you should have mechanisms for also evaluating each bid on quality and reliability.

Reverse auctions are becoming increasingly popular in some jurisdictions. However, in Australia, government agencies have been slow to adopt them.

This is partly because reverse auctions are not always popular with suppliers, who often associate them with ‘bid shopping’. This is the practice of pitting one supplier’s price against another to drive down costs.

As price is central to reverse auctions, they can also make it difficult for SMEs to compete.

You should always carry out a thorough assessment before choosing this procurement method.

6. Unsolicited proposals


Sometimes the most effective and original ideas for procurement will come from unsolicited proposals. It’s important you consider these when they’re relevant.

The Guide for Submission and Assessment of Unsolicited Proposals offers a transparent and streamlined approach to considering unsolicited proposals. It can help you work together with the private sector to develop and deliver innovative ideas.

Related content

  • Approach the market: Read an overview of what’s involved in approaching the market and what you must do.
  • What to consider: Find out everything you need to think about before approaching the market.
  • Ways to approach the market: Discover the different methods for approaching the market, including traditional and non-traditional approaches, as well as complex market engagements.
  • Traditional ways to approach the market: Read about the traditional ways to approach the market, such as tenders, requests for Proposal (RFPs) and requests for quote (RFQs).