As the old saying goes, if you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out. Nothing could be more salient for NHS Contract Managers sitting at their desks wondering, “how on earth will I get our contract data in a fit state for Atamis?”
It’s a fair question, and the state of contract registers at NHS Trusts up and down the UK varies considerably. But whatever condition your contract data is in, the temptation will be to upload what you have and resolve any gaps or discrepancies later. You’ll have time to tackle any data issues once you’ve wrapped up the quarter, set up those supplier reviews and instigate that new filing structure you said you’d do a couple of months ago, right?
With the current capacity issues, we’re all finding that time is our most precious resource and trust me, investing just a little time at the start will save you much more down the line. Porting to a new system is daunting (a bit of an understatement), but it’s also an excellent opportunity to start your procurement plans with a clean sheet. However, you must have confidence that your contracts information is comprehensive and accurate. Despite all the bells and whistles, Atamis is just a system, and any system is only as good as the data you put into it.
But with contracts and procurement professionals facing so many competing priorities, how do you even get started?
Fear not! We have teams of people who’ve been doing this sort of work for the best part of 30 years. Here’s our take on the steps you need to take to get your contracts data squeaky clean for your Atamis upload.
(If you’ve already uploaded your data and are currently using Atamis, these steps might be helpful for you to sense check or validate the data you uploaded.)
Step 1 – The “Data Dump”
The first step is always to pull in every piece of contract data you can. Contract registers, POs, spend data, emails, even post-its and pieces of paper, anything you can get your hands on. What you’re ultimately looking to build here is a list of suppliers, what they are supplying, for how much for how long and on what terms.
There will be gaps here and probably even some duplication, but if, at the very least, you can pull together a list of suppliers to focus on, you’ve at least got a solid jumping off point.
Step 2 – Hit the phones
Once you’re satisfied that you’ve got all the data you can from internal sources, it’s time to hit the phones and validate what you have with your suppliers.
In our experience, most suppliers will happily share any data they have. Then again, sending you contract details isn’t always top of their priority list, so be patient and persevere. Contract registers aren’t built in a day!
In your communication with your suppliers, be sure to frame this exercise as adding value to both parties. Make the point that having this information gives everyone a much better view of the Trust’s contracted commitments. The better visibility you have of who needs paying what and when means less likelihood of painful invoice queries and late contract renewals. It’s a win-win!
Not sure what sort of data you need to collect from your suppliers? Download our free supplier data checklist to get yourself started.
Step 3 – Channel your inner Sherlock
Time to put your detective hat on. Now that you have secured data from your internal teams and suppliers, it’s time to combine the two and query any inconsistencies.
While this may seem elementary (sorry, I couldn’t resist), this step can be the most time-consuming as you wrestle with two often conflicting datasets.
Falling back on my experience, it’s vital not to lose sight of the fact that your supplier’s information reflects how the contract operates. If you have a dispute about contract dates, terms or prices, it is right (and sometimes urgent!) to address it.
But for the accuracy of a contracts database, it is essential that you record the details of how the contract is actually operating, not how it should be operating. This may sound counterintuitive but don’t forget, you can always query any inconsistencies later and address any mismatch between what you think should be happening, and what actually is. The most important thing is having a consistent approach to discrepancies which will leave you with a much cleaner dataset at the end of the process and a clear list of priorities to address.
Follow the evidence wherever it leads! (ok, I’ve stretched this metaphor far enough…)
Step 4 – Check it, don’t wreck it
Now that you’re happy you have a robust contracts register, you’re ready to sense-check it with your colleagues. So get in touch with your end-users such as your Estates Managers, EBME, Radiology Managers etc. and any other main stakeholders for the contract. It’s important that the data you have collected so far matches up to their experience of the contract, and just as importantly, their expectations of the contract! It’s also important that they feel involved as part of the process. Don’t miss this step, as it’s crucial that you have your team’s confidence in what you’re uploading into Atamis.
This is especially true as your ICS will likely interrogate your data as we move towards more centralised commercial functions. They will also be relying on Atamis and the data you provide to get an oversight of spend in your region.
Step 5 – Look for the low-hanging fruit
So, you’ve got your contracts register up to snuff, and you’re ready for Atamis. Congratulations, you’re all done, right? Well, not quite. This is where you can reap the benefits of all your hard work by interrogating your shiny new data set to find efficiencies and cost savings. Who says Procurement Managers don’t know how to have fun?
At Lifecycle, we present any cleansed contract registers with an analysis of what things might be prioritised for renewal, any opportunities for consolidation or rationalisation, any potential savings to be found etc. Data is excellent, but actionable insights are worth their weight in gold, so spend a little time considering what opportunities your hard-worked data presents.
Need a little help from your friends?
This all may sound very straightforward, but anyone who has worked in contract management will know that these things take time and resources. From our own data (and experience) it can take as long as 6 months plus to fully validate a contract register for a large Trust. Unfortunately, time and resources are two things many procurement teams in the NHS simply don’t have enough of right now.
In fact, we recently produced an infographic that showcases the scale of work involved in contract renewals and validation. Check it out here.
As I say, my colleagues and I have been doing this for a long time, and we can provide you with an independent validation of your contracts data at a scale and speed that you probably won’t be able to match internally.
If you want to find out how Lifecycle can support your efforts to get your contracts data ready for Atamis, please call me on 01865 340 800 or put something straight in my diary here.
No obligation; I’m more than happy to pass on any advice I can give you.
Don’t forget our free supplier data checklist will help get you started with sourcing the right sort of contract data from your suppliers. Feel free to download a copy to get yourself started.