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NHS e-Procurement: 8 things to keep in mind when choosing your provider

18/01/2016


The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) e-procurement strategy is now up and running.  Suppliers of goods and services to NHS trusts and bodies must adapt to the new initiative, which requires, among other things, the use of electronic data interchange with the PEPPOL standard and the introduction of an e-catalogue or data pool able to operate in the GDSN network. Implementation is complex, so you need to choose the most appropriate service provider. But what aspects should we take into account to ensure the right decision?

  1. Capacity for adaptation

The EDI solution must be able to extract the data from your ERP or management system automatically. So, it is very important that the service provider should know how to assess your company's particular situation.  It will then be possible to roll out an integrated platform, which acts as a communication bridge to the NHS platform, with no need for complex developments in internal systems.

  1. Support throughout the implementation process

Rolling out the NHS e-procurement strategy involves a lengthy and complex process, as it consists of different phases. It is therefore advisable to engage the services of a specialist EDI provider to accompany and guide you throughout its implementation. In this sense, it is very useful to draw up a collaborative work schedule that covers all phases. Additionally, you should be fully informed on the working methods and certificates held by your consultants in the IT project management area.

  1. Technological capacity

Beyond their professional capabilities, we should also take the service provider's technological solvency into account. This is something that may be accredited by different certificates. One of the most widely used is the SLA or Service Level Agreement, an agreement whereby the partner undertakes to provide certain guarantees (service availability, maximum incident resolution time, etc.). There are also other international accreditations, such as ISAE 3402, TIER II, or ISO 27001.

  1. Certified technology

In addition to the guarantees mentioned in the previous section on ensuring your partner’s capabilities, in this particular case it is also necessary to have certain certificates when connecting to the NHS e-procurement platform. On one hand, the service provider must be accredited as an Access Point Provider by the OpenPEPPOL Association to be able to connect to the PEPPOL platform. On the other, the e-catalogue (data pool) must be authorized by GS1 to operate in the GDSN network.

  1. Integral solution

Sometimes, when faced with complex projects like this, companies tend to subdivide them and assign each area to a different supplier. However, this is a mistake, as it hampers coordination. The most recommendable option is to look for a service provider that is able to provide an integral, flexible and scalable solution. This will help you be more efficient.

  1. Scalable solution

 As it stands today, suppliers need to connect with the NHS and exchange e-documents according to the set requirements. However, paperless strategies are making headway throughout Europe, so it is important to look to the future. Choose a partner that provides a solution scalable to other regions worldwide and with capacity to extend to B2B projects.

  1. Cost savings

NHS suppliers are required to adapt to the mandatory e-procurement system. Nevertheless, this also brings economic benefits for businesses in the mid- to long-term. In this sense, technological cloud computing platforms and the use of software developed in ASP-SaaS mode provide savings on human and technological resources. The hardware, software, and maintenance activities take place in a DPC (Data Processing Centre) administered by the service provider, which the client can access using different connection services.

  1. Ongoing quality support

Opt for a supplier that guarantees continuous quality support and resolution of any incident. Points to consider include the dimension of the service provider company, its sustained growth, human resources team and, ultimately, its organizational nature. Don't forget that your relationship with the supplier does not end with rollout of the EDI solution. Through time, the system will gradually evolve and be subject to continuous updates.

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