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Crown Commercial Service Contract Award Shows Not to Underestimate Small Players
Posted by Hélène Pielmeier on June 2, 2016  in the following blogs: Interpreting
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Thebigword’s big win in the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) framework contract wasn’t the only major shift in the United Kingdom’s language services market. The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) framework, known as RM1092, is a supersize government contract that merges for the first time translation, face-to-face, and telephone into one framework. Five companies (Cintra, Clarion UK, The Language Shop, and translate plus with WorldWide Language Resources acting as the guarantor) joined forces to win a £140 to 250 million CCS lot for managed services. Some also won lots individually both in the MoJ and CCS frameworks.

Why does it matter?

  • Size no longer reduces odds. Large generalist language services providers have managed to dominate specific markets or market segments. Small and mid-sized organizations have a hard time competing against these large empires – in this case Capita and thebigword. But some other companies have staged a counterattack. An alliance of these smaller players has organized to outsmart the big powers and de-monopolize the market.

  • Small providers recognize they can’t win battles on their own. The five companies submitted a joint bid. Together, the group exceeds the size of Capita or thebigword, the dominant forces on the UK interpreting market, which also won sizeable lots in this contract. In addition, the group made a smart move by including The Language Shop which is run by a London borough and therefore originated on the buy-side. This LSP brings extra expertise in working with the public sector work. Like the original LLCJ EEIG that came together to service Microsoft, these smaller players are stronger as a team than they can be on their own.

  • Specialization adds power to sales claims. Each of the five companies is highly focused and has little overlap with the other members of the alliance. For example, Clarion UK is the biggest sign language interpreter agency and was already working for the MoJ, while WorldWide Language Resources brings extensive experience in military work.

  • Building a team requires resources. The planning to respond to the bid took over 18 months and an investment of over £150,000 footed in most part by WorldWide Language Resources. The companies planned a centralized contact team and built a portal for CCS clients that Jon Potter, head of the client service team, described as “the hub of the wheel.”

  • Sustaining the team requires unity. The consortium-like structure was built just to win this contract. Such collaborations are rarely sustained – many prior alliances have had to retreat. To succeed, LSPs need investment in the infrastructure that enables the collaboration and a referee who coordinates the various interests of participants. Robert Timms, director at translate plus, highlighted that: “On the government side, no one is forced to use this contract. To be successful, we need a strong sales and marketing push, and that is exactly where we are going to make the difference compared to other consortiums in the past.”
Can this new alliance deliver on its promises? The high level of specialization of each team member has the potential to deliver better services. In the end, it will all come down to the group’s ability to streamline the communication with the various government bodies that may purchase services under this contract and to manage the multiple players so they keep the common goal as their top priority.

The one element to keep in mind in this specific case is that the five organizations aren’t in it just for the money. It’s more of a rebel alliance rallied around a common cause to de-monopolize the market. The CCS responded well to think beyond generalists. But the industry will be eager to see if this success can be replicated beyond this single contract.


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