The guide 1. Plan

Choose an approach

Choose the best way to approach the market and the right contract terms and conditions.

Why it's important

Once you have a set of agreed outcomes and an idea of your budget it’s important to decide:

  • if running a procurement is the best way to meet your needs
  • how to approach the market
  • the best type of contract to deliver your outcomes

What it means

Before you consider procurement approaches you should first ask:

  • can and should we build the product or service ourselves? Sometimes
    known as a ‘make or buy’ decision
  • can we use or extend an existing contract to deliver the same outcomes?
  • can we get a better price through 'aggregated' or collective buying with other departments?

These options can avoid you having to run a new procurement process. However, they need careful consideration to ensure:

  • you have the expertise and capabilities to deliver a solution
  • you will get better value for money by building a product or service in house
  • contract changes are permitted and cover the same scope of the original contract
  • the product or service can be bought 'off the shelf' and does not need to be tailored to your needs

If the answer is no to these questions then you will need to choose from the following procurement procedures:

  • open procedures, where any supplier can bid for the work
  • restricted procedures, in which only certain suppliers can bid, for example those with specific skills or experience
  • negotiated or ‘competitive dialogue’ procedures, which allow you to
    negotiate requirements with suppliers before inviting them to bid
  • direct-award procedures, in which contracts are awarded direct to one supplier, without competition, generally used only in defence or emergency contexts

Of these options the ‘open’ procedure should be considered the default choice as it maximises transparency and competition.

Do's and don'ts


  • consider whether a procurement process is the best way to achieve your needs
  • combine with other departments to buy commonly bought products or services at a better price
  • use open procurement procedures to maximise transparency and competition


  • do not use the direct award process except for emergency or security-related buying