Understanding the quality of creative services: How quality is defined and judged in public procurements
Public procurement of creative services is a complex area that is highly debated within the industry. Each year public organisations in Sweden procure goods and services worth SEK 600 billion, equal to one fifth of the Swedish GDP (Konkurrensverket, 2014a: 17). By seeking out and taking advantage of competition in relevant markets, adherents of ‘New Public Management’ (NPM) argue that public funds be used in the best way. In public procurements, the tenderers are graded on different quality aspects and price. This is done in order for the contracting authority to compare the tenders and to preserve objectivity as required by law. However, when procuring creative services, quality aspects are not as easily quantified as price. This results in a dilemma where the public procurer must judge abstract dimension, such as creativity, and translate the judgement to a score or grade. The scoring based system complicates selecting creative work for the public procurer since the evaluation of creative work is of a subjective nature and might only be described by the ‘gut feeling’ rather than objectively proven. Based on case studies, this thesis explores how the quality of creative services in public procurement can be defined, and how the quality of this work is judged. The case study includes two recent public procurements within design and communication. By interviewing both public procurers and tenderers, this thesis aims to provide a better understanding of the perceptions of quality and how the quality is judged. This study reveals that in public procurements, the quality of a creative service was found to be defined as a strategy that enables a relevant outcome, which results in an impact in a desired direction for the client. The quality was judge based on the tenderer’s previous work, where both strategy and outcome were considered. Different quality aspects were quantified in order for the judgement to be as objective as possible. However, the quality of a creative service was considered to be immeasurable,1 thus the judgement relied on subjective preferences. This study sheds light on the unexplored field of quality judgement of creative services in public procurements, and is a contribution to both academia and industry. The thesis can serve as a basis for future research as well as a useful tool when procuring creative services.