Remembering magic and logic

Produced by DALL-E

Anyone else remember Magic & Logic?

It was a joint initiative in the UK about improving how the procurement process works between clients and agencies. The initiative was led by (don’t shout at me if I’m wrong) the IPA, ISBA, and CIPS.

Honestly, I can’t remember everything but I do remember it being welcome at the time. I think it might have been around the end of the 1990s.

Being Human

The initiative was an attempt to try to make the procurement process more human. You know, people talking to each other, respecting the amount of effort that goes into the process from all sides, appreciating constraints and trying to make the “match-making” process one that worked better for all parties.

Prior to Magic & Logic, the procurement process could be very one-sided and a bit dehumanising. It was particularly onerous for smaller companies due to the massive amount of effort required.

Old-School Process

Here are some of the characteristics of the old-school procurement process (from the agency perspective):

  • No human contact. At no point in the selection process, apart from maybe at the very end if you were selected to present, could you talk to a human being working at the procuring organisation
  • Spreadsheets. Hundreds of questions to answer, in forms and spreadsheets, taking days and days of effort.
  • Procurement portal. You’d have to navigate the worst web interface, devised by some evil gremlin whose only joy in life was to make the user want to throw their computer out of the window. Daily.
  • Do the whole job. In many instances, for digital projects, you’d be asked to do almost the entire job you were pitching for - research, insights, designs, prototypes, etc. For free. While trying to serve your actual clients.
  • Blind leading the blind. On digital projects, the people making the decision about which experts to appoint were wholely unqualified to be making that decision.


So, Magic & Logic, while not perfect (nothing is), was a refreshing change. Sadly, I don’t think it ever caught on, and, especially in the charity sector, the old-school processes still seem to exist.

What’s the alternative?

Of course, charitable organisations, arguably more so than commercial ones, need to show due diligence. They also need to demonstrate that they’ve compared like-with-like.

The old-school process isn’t a great way of doing that, and you’ll end up with a working partner that’s alienated and out-of-pocket from day one.

So here’s what I recommend for finding a digital partner that can make the most of your budget. It’s simple.

  • Start with a much shorter list of potential experts (think 5 max)
  • Create a mini project. Something that will allow you to see what it’s like working with these candidates. The procurement process can take weeks if not months, so create a mini project that can be done in a week. Less effort for everyone and you’ll get a real sense of the potential.
  • Provide a budget for this time.
  • Create a balanced scorecard for evaluation. Avoid subjective measures (e.g. did I like the design). Ideally, look at their portfolio to see if they have core skills but don’t include subjective elements like design in the mini project.
  • Create APIs for standard data. Of course you want to know that people have various certifications, privacy policies etc. Standardise the “ingestion” format so digital partners can give you the information you want in seconds, not days of back-and-forth. Or, let us provide you with a feed/login where you can find the data you want.

For charities, the main trouble with the old-school procurement approach is that it risks excluding the very people that can help you the most. You’ll be left with the larger, expensive partners, as they’ll be the only ones able to afford to go through the extended process while destroying your budget.

Remembering magic and logic
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