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On 20 May 2021, the Cabinet Office published Procurement Policy Note 03/21 (PPN03/21). PPN 03/21 introduces the third iteration of the Sourcing Playbook, serving as a rebrand and refresh of the Outsourcing Playbook, launched in February 2019 and updated in June 2020. The Sourcing Playbook now supersedes that document.

As before, the Sourcing Playbook sets out further guidance on how government departments should approach and improve service delivery, and also outlines the Government's expectations for how contracting authorities and suppliers should engage with each other.

PPN 03/21 also sees publication of the Consultancy Playbook, developed in partnership with the Government Consulting Hub. The Consultancy Playbook is designed to provide specific guidance on how the public sector may engage more effectively with consultants and achieve better outcomes. 

PPN 03/21 is to be applied with immediate effect to all Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non Departmental Public Bodies and it provides helpful best practice guidance to all sub-central contracting authorities.

The Sourcing Playbook builds on guidance published in the Outsourcing Playbook and again sets out commercial best practices in the form of its 11 key policies, which remain as follows:

  1. Publication of Commercial pipelines;
  2. Market health and capability assessments;
  3. Project Validation Review (PVR);
  4. Delivery model assessments;
  5. Should Cost Modelling;
  6. Requirement for pilots;
  7. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs);
  8. Risk Allocation;
  9. Pricing and payment mechanisms;
  10. Assessing the economic and financial standing of suppliers;
  11. Resolution planning.

In addition, there is refreshed and refined content on the following areas:


The newly published Consultancy Playbook is designed to be built into the typical procurement process and looks to assure that where contracting authorities identify a business need for additional support they should, in the first instance, critically assess the appropriate delivery model and weigh the cost/risk considerations of each option, so that they can achieve value for money and mitigate any identified risk(s). The Consultancy Playbook sets out self-assessment criteria which project teams should consider when determining the appropriate delivery model. There is further detailed guidance in the Playbook focussing on the considerations that contracting authorities should have in mind when engaging with, and going to, the market including: writing effective specifications and evaluation criteria, selecting the appropriate route to market to draw out the suppliers needed, pricing and payment mechanisms, bid evaluation and data capture.

Embedding wider social value

The Sourcing Playbook reiterates the importance of delivering social value through government commercial contracts and embedding this into the public procurement process. Again, the Sourcing Playbook confirms that the Social Value Model, introduced via PPN 06/20, should be used when engaging with supply markets and service users, at an early stage, and helps set out the government's social value priorities across 5 core themes: (1) helping communities manage and recover from Covid-19, (2) tackling economic equality and 'levelling up', (3) climate change, (4) equal opportunity and (5) wellbeing. 

Improved delivery model assessments

The Sourcing Playbook has refined policy to reflect latest priorities and lessons learnt from delivery, and the process for running an effective assessment has been set out in detailed and refreshed accompanying Guidance Notes

Improved Should Cost Model offering

The Sourcing Playbook also brings updated content and additional tools and templates for Should Cost Models.

As ever, through its latest PPN and the Sourcing and Consultancy Playbooks, the Government seeks to ensure that public bodies are continuing to assess and improve the ways in which they deliver public services with the private sector. As stated above, whilst PPN 03/21 shall apply immediately to all In-scope Organisations, the Sourcing and Consultancy Playbooks and associated guidance are considered good practice and the wider public sector should consider taking them into account.