How are contracts awarded? Typically to the supplier that best meets specified procurement criteria. But what follows? The Informed Solutions 2018/19 Client Satisfaction Survey results have just been released, together with reflections from Group CEO Elizabeth Vega.
By Seth Finegan, UK CEO of Informed Solutions
Most of us would agree that many contracts are awarded to the supplier that best meets specified procurement criteria, frequently in the order of precedence of: 1) the ability to meet buyer requirements, 2) lowest credible, reliable price and 3) best quality for price.
Yet after running a successful, award-winning business year after year, you intuitively come to realise that isn’t just about meeting your client’s specified, functional needs in the cheapest way. The Japanese have a wonderful saying: ‘Highest quality is lowest cost’. I just wish that we could enshrine that philosophy in our procurement processes. The clients that enable you to successfully deliver highest quality and your best work need to come to trust you; open, honest behaviours and communications are essential to building confidence and high performing professional relationships.
When you take on mission critical, large scale innovation and business transformation projects, which is our specialism at Informed Solutions, all parties are invariably faced with navigating through the significant uncertainties and risks that are inherent in this these types of engagements. We have learned the importance and value of working with people that you can trust and build strong, collaborative and supportive relationships with. For this reason, over more than 20 years, we have run an annual Client Satisfaction Survey. This Survey helps us understand our clients’ views and gives us insights into their experiences of working with our people. The 2018/19 edition of our Client Satisfaction Survey has just wrapped up, and in the face of continuing business and marketplace uncertainty, we’d like to share the insights that we’ve gained with you !
Our Survey gathers both quantitative (numbers, metrics) and qualitative (words, descriptors) information and the approach assesses how we’ve performed against the three key values that drive our work here at Informed Solutions: INNOVATION, EXCELLENCE, INTEGRITY.
By way of context, most of our clients rely on us to either help them: 1) deliver decision support and ‘smart’ operational services that underpin business-critical functions within their business, or 2) fulfil national front-line services to citizens and communities. It’s essential that we consistently deliver the standard of advice, solutions and support that are needed by clients that rely on these safety, mission and business critical systems. Our people are proud of Informed’s outstanding 27 year track-record and we are also very conscious that we cannot become complacent. This means always being mindful of adapting our ways of working to evolve around changing client needs and marketplace trends. We actively ask for and welcome constructive feedback, explore ways to improve how we work together, assess where we should build more skills and capability, and forward plan areas of investment that enable us to better respond to changing client needs.
So, onto the results…
Having just been awarded a new contract, we ask clients for early feedback. They frequently sequence (price apart) the attractiveness of the key elements of our value proposition, in the following order as: 1) Excellence, 2) Innovation and 3) Integrity. This is understandable and a logical order, particularly given the nature of most competitively bid procurement processes.
However, an interesting metamorphosis happens once we have started working together through the challenges and risks that we jointly face in delivering modernisation, innovation and business transformation projects.
In the Client Satisfaction Survey, once plans came off the drawing board and the heavy lifting started, clients deemed INTEGRITY to be the attribute they most valued in our working relationship. We were delighted to know that at 90%, it’s also where our clients have rate us as exceptional. In particular, clients say that they value the honesty and impartiality of our professional advice, guidance, behaviours and communications. Client feedback consistently highlights that what they appreciate most is that our communications are congruent with how our people behave professionally, and that this underpins the authentic collaborative and partnering nature of our approach. For many years, we’ve noticed that this consistency between ‘what we say and what we do’ is central to why many clients trust and chose to work with us again and again as their innovation and business transformation partner. Typical client experience feedback on working with our people is that “Informed are working with us and for us”, delivering “innovative solutions that meet our specific business needs, whilst being pragmatic and achievable and delivered within agreed budgets”.
The Client Satisfaction Survey also highlighted that EXCELLENCE – in particular the standard of skills, risk management and delivery assurance provided – was the next most critical attribute. In this area, we achieved 86% and were considered to “consistently and dependably deliver outstanding results”. Clients repeatedly fed back that they were impressed by the high standard of skills, professionalism and capability we showed in executing against commitments. We believe that our reliable performance in delivering Excellence can be attributed to two key factors. Firstly, we focus on our people: significantly investing in skills development, rewarding performance and loyalty, and engaging with staff to help build a great workplace culture that supports and encourages them. The second is that we genuinely seek to understand the client’s viewpoint, strategic requirements and business goals, so that we can better serve them. We have evolved structured User Research, Agile working and DevOps techniques to work well within the corporate environment, adapting and re-aligning deliverables to best meet business needs, within agreed budgets. One client’s feedback summarised our aim best when they offered the view that “Informed Solutions’ people are not simply doing a job but looking to get the best outcome for us”.
It fascinated us to hear that whilst INNOVATION was a key selection criteria during many procurement processes, once we started successfully delivering that innovation, it then became a less critical element of the success of the working relationship. In the Client Satisfaction Survey, we were reassuringly rated an outstanding 84%, which we believe reflects over 27 years of dedication to de-risking innovation projects and winning countless innovation and excellence awards, culminating with the Queens Award for Innovation in 2018. We take great pride in having methodically and systematically built up world class innovation capabilities and our reputation. For most of our clients, the need to modernise and innovate their core and critical services, must be thoughtfully balanced with risk management; delivery assurance; service security, resilience and reliability; and budget controls. It was also very interesting to note that clients also value the nuances that we can bring to innovation, as in the case of one client that said, working in partnership with Informed has resulted in “our people and your people becoming one team” and “now everyone in the team always has an eye for improving operational efficiency”.
The Business and Client Services team at Informed always shares the findings of our annual Client Satisfaction Survey with staff and everyone keenly and competitively (in a good way) looks for ways to improve their team’s scores for next year. Our Group CEO, Elizabeth Vega, reflecting on this year’s results, offered:
"We explicitly set out to be a company driven by purpose and positive values, and our aim is to be great to work for and great to work with.
It starts with hiring great people that are trustworthy, have positive work ethics, are motivated to make a difference, happy to accept responsibility, open and fair minded, team players and solutions-orientated problem solvers. We support and develop the talent of those people and together we look to create a workplace where they thrive and enjoy what they do.
For our clients, this means that we offer genuinely motivated, purpose-driven and skilled people that work closely with the client’s own team to deliver the best possible solutions and business outcomes. Many of our clients face very considerable pressures to modernise their operations, whilst being closely scrutinised on service improvements and spending. We are personally and professionally committed to partnering with clients to meet those competing challenges and engineer success.
The insights that we’ve gained from this last year’s Client Satisfaction Survey tells us that we are appointed because we are considered highly capable, respected innovators with proven delivery assurance infrastructure. However, once clients feel the pulls and pushes of a large, complex modernisation and innovation project, they increasingly come to value our integrity, expert capabilities, authentic partnering approach and ‘can-do’ attitude.
Sometimes, our transparent and ethical approach to managing client expectations has lost us contracts; particularly where a prospective client prefers to believe what they want to hear, rather than what they genuinely need to hear. I’m delighted that clients that appoint us as their innovation and business transformation partner, recognise and value the integrity, excellence and innovation that we bring to the professional relationship.
On a final and personal note, I continue to be blown away by the outstanding efforts and talent of our people. Moreover, I’m truly thrilled that our clients also acknowledge this."
Elizabeth Vega, Group CEO
In addition to the positive feedback our clients have given us, those of us that work at Informed Solutions can also vouch for what a great culture it is for people that want to learn, enjoy team working with others to make a difference, and are looking for an encouraging company that offers professional and career development opportunities. Whether you are an experienced professional looking for a new challenge, or a graduate seeking the right company to support your career ambitions, we can help you grow and excel professionally. Explore the fantastic career opportunities at Informed by following this link.