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Advice on changing your suppliers

January 15, 2021, 11:59 GMT+1
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  • Phil Burton gives his advice on what to do if you're not getting the service you agreed to...
Advice on changing your suppliers

A quick scan through my twitter feed brings up endless tweets around suppliers hiking up the costs or failing to provide the service that was originally agreed under the terms of the service level agreements.

The “working from home” case seems to be an excuse for failing to provide the level of service you expect and indeed pay for.

In the first instance you must talk to your supplier and express your concerns using the agreed method in the SLA. Give them the opportunity to resolve your concerns. Be clear about what it is that you expect and ask them how they plan on resolving your issues within a given time frame. I would also keep this documented. If the issues cannot be resolved look at how you can exit the agreement but ensure you get proper legal advice.


If you do decide that it is time to change I believe knowledge is the key to procurement, so the first thing to do is to make sure that you know what items you need procured and the deadlines for each. Depending on what service is required will determine what length of time you need to give it. A simple spreadsheet for the next two years which lists everything to be procured would be the easiest way of doing this. I would suggest highlighting the more significant services in red and give them a longer period of time to work through.

I would then review your current provider. Create a simple positive/negative chart and list everything that you feel about the provider. Think about cost, performance, ability to resolve issues and for me how they have supported you during the pandemic. It is when a business is at its most stretched that you can get a real feel for how they value you as the customer. I would also throw in at this point if you are not happy with them have you actually told them about this. It would be unfair to not allow them the opportunity to rectify any issues.


So now the legal bit – check the current legislation in terms of what you must do. Do you meet various legal amounts which require EU tendering or can you get three quotes to present to your governors. The detail is important and at a lower level varies from school to school so do your homework.

Know what you want! Be clear and specific about what you require. If you are not the specialist in the area seek one out to make sure you have the right information. I am not an ICT specialist but will get advice on this area to ensure we get the right information to go to suppliers


Test the market – shop around! Whilst there are some benefits to being loyal to a service provider you must do your homework. Check that they are still competitive within the area they offer. I have seen time and time again where a provider “feels comfortable” with you and therefore pushes the limit on what they can charge as they know you won’t move. Once you have a few you feel are right, ask colleagues if they have used them before, get references for people you know rather than letting them send you their references.

Check the small print – get someone to check this for you. Unless you are a specialist we don’t really know what it all means so have it checked out. Once you have done all this then it is time to sign on the line!

Phil Burton, business manager, Hallbrook Primary School and Cosby Primary School