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All You Need To Know: What information do you need to gather from the business to be able to successfully procure an MSP?

If you don’t already have a managed service (MSP) solution in place, procuring one can have many benefits to your business from reduced costs and improved service, to improved visibility / data and compliance, as well as access to cutting edge technology.


However, whether you’re considering procuring an MSP for the first time, or you may want / have to retender an existing MSP agreement, an integral part of the process – before going out to tender – is to conduct an in-depth information-gathering exercise covering the below:


  1. Current contingent worker population
  2. Upcoming projects
  3. Contingent worker spend
  4. Compliance requirements
  5. Billing requirements
  6. Draft contract and contract regulations
  7. Account team and the possible TUPE transfer
  8. Vendor Management System (VMS).


The purpose of gathering this information upfront and using it to compile a detailed MSP scope document for prospective suppliers during the tender process, is threefold.


  1. It allows you to think about the type of questions you need to ask as part of the bidding process.
  2. It helps suppliers understand what is expected of them, to determine whether they are the right supplier for you, and how they need to factor your requirements into their costings.
  3. It stops you from being bombarded with clarification questions that you must then spend a lot of time and effort responding to, which can delay the bidding process.


To gather this information, you will need to talk to your Operations, Legal, HR, Finance, and IT teams as well as your internal resourcing team.


Yes, gathering this information takes effort, but it’s time well spent if you want to get the right supplier, at the right price, and if you want that supplier to deliver the service, that’s right for your business.


When suppliers really understand what your requirements are, not only will the bid process stay on track, but you will also get a high level of engagement from suppliers, who really want to work with you as a business and will pull out all the stops during the tender process.


  1. Contingent worker population


Getting a good understanding of your contingent worker population and profile will help shape your tender questions so that you can select the right provider.


Contingent worker population breakdown

First, gather a detailed breakdown of what your contingent worker population looks like today. You can get this information from your hiring managers and/or existing suppliers.


  • What type of roles do they do?
  • What level are they at in terms of role level (e.g. junior / middle management / senior level roles)?
  • What departments do they work for?
  • What skills and experience do they typically need?
  • How long do assignments usually last?
  • Where are they located?
  • What are their payrates?
  • Were they sourced by your MSP provider, second-tier suppliers or introduced directly by your organisation?



  1. Upcoming projects


You also need to gather information about what projects, if anything, the business has in the pipeline and estimated contingent worker numbers.  


The more data you share around how many new requirements you typically have in any given month, and whether you have any upcoming projects, the better you can gauge whether potential suppliers are the right provider for you.


  • How many contingent workers do you typically hire a month / year?
  • Are your contingent worker requirements consistent or do you have spikes in demand?
  • Have you had any major projects in the last several years?
  • Do you have any upcoming projects in the pipeline that are likely to utilise high numbers of contingent workers? And if yes, what might that workforce look like?


If you have a large-scale project in the pipeline, where you anticipate using high numbers of contingent workers, you may want to ask a question within that tender process about suppliers’ experience of delivering large numbers of contingent workers for a specific project.


This is because delivering large numbers of contingent workers for a specific project and hiring on a business-as-usual basis is different.


Niche roles

If you have niche roles within your contingent worker population, ask potential suppliers what their capability to fulfil those roles is. 


  • How do they go about finding them?
  • Will they be using their second-tier suppliers to fill them?



  1. Contingent worker spend


Getting details around spend is an integral part of the information-gathering exercise.


  • What has your typical contingent worker spend been over the last two / three years?
  • Does your spend fluctuate?


Getting details around your spend for at least a three-year period means suppliers can factor that in and price their tender correctly.


If your spend fluctuates significantly – whether it’s over an annual or three-year period – you might want to determine how flexible the solution the MSP providers are putting into place is, and whether it’s in line with the needs of your business.


  • Can they scale their account team up and down?
  • Can they scale their resourcing efforts up and down?


Before going out to tender you might also want to use things like spend and potential MSP suppliers’ current turnover as part of your prequalification questionnaire so that you can exclude some suppliers from the get-go. For example, you might not want to select a supplier where your spend will represent more than 25 per cent of their total turnover.


Contractual engagement as an element of your spend


Another important point to confirm is how your current contingent workers are contractually engaged.


Typically, workers are contractually engaged in one of two ways: contract for services or contract of employment.


Workers engaged under a contract for services are not automatically covered by TUPE transfer.

However, if they’re engaged under a contract of employment (and some MSP providers and agencies do engage their temporary workers under a contract of employment), then your temporary workers are also covered by TUPE transfer as part of the transition process.


Having this information allows your bidders to determine if they can a) deal with TUPE transfer and b) are they happy to engage those contingent workers on a contract of employment?


If there are any additional benefits that they provide to their temporary workers, such as accident insurance or any additional bonus payments, again that needs to be shared as part of the tender process.



  1. Compliance requirements


Talk to your Legal and HR teams about what compliance requirements you need to consider as part of the process. This includes what screening measures you want to have in place, as well as any documentation you want your suppliers to be in possession of.

The answer to these questions will drive your questioning about suppliers’ ability to deliver these things and how they’re going to deliver them.


There needs to be clarity about this because you don’t want to get to contract award stage only to discover that the supplier you have selected is unable to perform specific clearances you require, forcing you to start the bid process all over again.


  • What kind of screening do you need delivered as part of the onboarding process?
  • What screening do your contingent workers need to go through?
  • How many years’ worth of referencing do they need?
  • Do they need drugs and alcohol testing as part of a pre-onboarding check?
  • Do they need DBS checks?
  • Do they need credit checks?
  • Do they need sanctions checks?
  • Do they need SC or DV clearance?
  • Does your supplier need to have specific memberships or accreditations?
  • How long does it currently take a contingent worker to go through the screening process and onboarded into your business?
  • Do you expect your MSP provider to provide specific tools pr PPE to workers when they start on assignment?


And don’t forget off-payroll-working


  • How do you do the status determination assessments for IR35?
  • Is there a common internal process that you use in your business?
  • Do you rely on a third party?
  • If you’ve currently got an MSP in place, does your supplier support any of the status determination assessment workflows within your business?




Are there any standard documents that you need suppliers to sign up to or commit to? For example, are there any environmental standards that all suppliers must sign up to and be able to demonstrate? Are there any specific health and safety standards that they need to have adhered to? Are there any specific requirements in terms of quality, such as ISO accreditation, they need to have?


All this information needs to go out with the tender.


Other requirements


Talk to your HR and your internal resourcing teams to find out if your MSP provider is expected to fulfil any unusual or out of the ordinary requirements the business might have.


Remember, you must specify these upfront otherwise they may lead to challenging contractual discussions later.


  • Is there an expectation for your MSP provider to support outside the scope of contingent workers?
  • Will your MSP provider support with permanent hiring or niche permanent hiring?
  • Will your MSP provider support volume recruitment campaigns?
  • Will your MSP provider support screening for your permanent headcount?

If you currently have an MSP and there’s an expectation that those services are set to continue, build questions around those into your tender document, and build some pricing into your pricing model for those services.


Discovering you’ve no wiggle room to negotiate those services, after you’ve already awarded the contract, is not an ideal situation to find yourself in as you can end up paying a much higher price for those services than you anticipated.


Nor do you want to be in a situation whereby the business was expecting those services to continue and suddenly your supplier doesn’t do perm recruitment or can’t handle volume resourcing.


Assumptions are the mother of all mistakes

You must be clear about what your expectations are and to specify what requirements you want an MSP supplier to provide. You don’t want any ambiguity. 


Don’t assume all MSPs work in exactly the same way. They don’t.


If you’re procuring an MSP for the first time, or if you’ve got a current MSP and you’re going out to tender, don’t assume that you can get some general requirements and that all MSPs will be on the same page because that is what all MSP providers do.


For example, don’t assume all MSP providers undertake all screening checks inhouse. They don’t.


There is also a cost to all these screening checks that suppliers must build into their submissions.


That’s why you must be specific about what those screening requirements are upfront.


What you don’t want is to find out during the implementation process that your supplier wasn’t aware something was expected of them, as this can cause additional cost, not to mention unnecessary delays.



  1. Billing


Having a conversation with your Finance team is crucial.


Get clarity over what they expect from a billing solution.


  • What frequency of billing do they expect?
  • What do they expect in terms of the format of that billing?
  • Do they want a single invoice or are they looking for multiple invoice formats?
  • Do they want to take billing information directly out of a VMS and have a feed directly into your finance system?
  • Do they want the billing information provided as part of an extract that they can upload?


Again, like everything else, be very specific about what you want or what the requirements are. This means your supplier can accurately answer any questions you include in your bid to confirm that they’re able to do that.



  1. Draft contract and contract regulations


As part of the bid process, you are expected to provide a draft version of your contract that potential bidders can review and comment on.


Given it’s not uncommon for MSP contracts to run for many years, look at your current contract and talk to legal to find out if it needs updating.  Significant legislative changes might have taken place since the last time you updated it.


  • Are there any new elements that need to be included or removed this time round?
  • Are there any references to off-payroll working or Living Wage levels that need amending?


By sharing this draft contract you’re effectively telling suppliers what you expect them to sign up to. The expectation from suppliers is that you will provide them with an updated version of the document that includes all necessary amendments.


Bidders can then comment on the draft contract and come back to you. Although you don’t have to accept their comments, it remains an important part of the bidding process and must be included.


If you’ve not had an MSP contract before, there are legal firms that can supply you with a standardised MSP contract or you can ask your bidders to provide you with an example MSP contract as part of the bid process.


Contract regulations and duration


Speak to legal or regulatory compliance about any contract regulations that will apply to your business.


Is there anything in your contract regulations, or any specific requirements that you have within your industry sector, that prohibits you from offering a contract exceeding a certain number of years?


Suppliers are going to want to know the potential duration of the agreement. For example, is it a three-year contract with the option to extend for a further three years? Or is it a three-year agreement, with an option to extend for three, one-year periods?


How long do you want to commit yourselves as a business to an MSP provider, assuming everything is going well?



  1. Account team and the possible TUPE transfer


Gather information about your current set up and if you expect that to continue.


  • If you currently have an onsite account team from an incumbent MSP, is there an expectation that continues?
  • Do you want the onsite presence to continue in the same location, or do you want that to change?
  • Have your business requirements changed and so it makes more sense to have onsite account teams based at more than one location?
  • Do you even want / need that fulltime onsite presence anymore?


This exercise isn’t about gathering information about what you do now and assuming you will automatically replicate that.


Instead, find out what the current situation is and then look at the numbers and talk to your Operations team and ask yourselves:


  • Does that still work for you as a business?
  • Is that what you still want to do, or would you prefer to have something else?


If you don’t have an MSP in place you might need to get more creative and talk to the business about what you want your new MSP to look like as you’ve nothing to compare it to.


For example, if you have concentrated numbers of contingent workers and hiring managers in certain locations, would you like an onsite team to be based there?

Talk to your hiring manages about some of the frustrations that they have around the current situation and what could be improved, and communicate that as part of the bid process.



TUPE transfer


If you have an existing MSP in place, get details from your incumbent supplier which account team members are in scope for TUPE transfer to your new MSP provider. Also get the relevant TUPE details (salary, pension, length of service, etc) of those workers from your current provider.


All these details will need to be shared with potential bidders given those workers’ contractual requirements are protected under TUPE.



  1. Vendor Management System (VMS)


Talk to your HR, IT, Operations, and Finance teams and get very clear on what you’re going to use the Vendor Management System (VMS) for.


  • What are the requirements concerning technology?
  • What does it need to cover?
  • What does it need to be able to do for you?


VMS platforms have a lot of functionality but that doesn’t mean you want to use it all.


  • Is your expectation that everything right through from requisition all the way to hire, onboarding and then timesheeting is captured within that VMS system?


Don’t let suppliers make assumptions about what you want from your VMS platform because what you don’t want is to pay for something you’re not going to use.


Get a real understanding of what your processes are so that you can put those forward as a specification for that VMS platform.

Think about what the scope of the service includes as well.


  • Does it include Statement of Work (SOW)?


Because if you want to use your MSP solution going forward to engage certain SOWs, then the VMS functionality must have the ability to set up and sign off SOW’s.


  • Are there any specific security requirements for your VMS platform?
  • Does your IT team have a standard data security questionnaire that must be shared with bidders?


All these factors need to be captured and assessed as part of the information-gathering exercise as they will shape your requirements when going out to tender.



Something to bear in mind (if you don’t have an MSP already)


If you don’t have an existing MSP and you’ve got an ad hoc supply arrangement or a Preferred Supplier List (PSL), a register of pre-assessed, agreed suppliers that you procure your contingent workers from, gathering this data is going to take longer and is more challenging.

Your MSP should be able to give you information about your contingent workforce quickly and easily.

If you need to go out to your PSL, you first need to figure out who to go to and who to contact within those businesses.  Who are your account managers? Who do you normally deal with there? Then you need to send them the information sheet and say you want them to fill it out. You also need to accept that some will, and some won’t; and that you’re going to need to chase the ones that don’t. What’s your fallback position if they don't fill it in?

However, don’t let that put you off from doing your due diligence and gathering the information up front.


The last thing you want is to put your business at risk by selecting the wrong supplier, and all because you didn’t provide the bidders with the information they needed upfront.

Also, if it’s difficult to gather all this information before you go out to tender, it’s a lot more difficult to gather it when you’re under time pressure to respond to a lot of clarification questions.

If you’ve never had an MSP solution, talk to other procurement / HR professionals.


Ask them:


  • What a solution looks like?
  • What were some of the pitfalls?
  • What did they do wrong?
  • What’s working well?


You can also approach an MSP provider to help. At Rullion we provide consultancy work to help gather this data, shape your thoughts, and to help you get an understanding of what you’re looking for.


To conclude


The purpose of gathering all this data is so that you go to market with a more robust bid document and get the solution and service that you want, not just an off the peg solution.


There’s also no ambiguity during the process.


  • Your bidders are very clear about what it is they’re expected to provide
  • Your bidders are very clear about what they need to factor in in terms of costs
  • It avoids any problems and renegotiations during the implementation phase.


What you want to ensure is that the suppliers who are bidding for your business are confident that they can deliver the people you want.


Equally important from this process is to allow suppliers, who aren’t well suited to delivering your requirements, to rule themselves out.

When suppliers really understand what your requirements are, not only will the bid process stay on track, but you will also get a high level of engagement from suppliers, who really want to work with you as a business and will pull out all the stops during the tender process.

Yes, gathering this information is a lot of work, but ultimately any work that you put in upfront, you will get payback for tenfold in terms of keeping the bid process on target and more importantly, getting the supplier that’s right for you, at a price that’s going to deliver great value for your business.



Need help identifying what information you need to gather from your business to successfully procure an MSP? Fill out our contact form below and one of the team will call you back.