I’ve been talking recently about attracting talent into public sector procurement and one of the things I reflected on was what it meant to be a public sector procurement professional right now.
At the risk of repeating myself, you don’t need to be a procurement person to see how hard it is financially in the public sector right now. It’s clear that there’s insufficient funding for public services including critical front-line services such as health and social care and it would be either very arrogant of me and somewhat naïve if I thought that procurement alone could resolve these issues. As good a public sector buying organisation (PSBO) as YPO is, neither we, nor organisations like us, can solve all the budget related problems just through better procurement.
That said, I do believe passionately that great procurement is an asset that we in the public sector has yet to fully exploit. Good procurement, when executed well, I’m convinced can be nothing short of transformational and can at least be a substantial part of helping to offset some of the financial pressure being brought to bear on our public services.
As Head of Procurement for YPO, I’m tasked with developing and executing strategy that does exactly that. That helps procurement within the public sector be as effective as possible, transforming wherever we can and adding more value than ever before. I love this brief. After two years at YPO and now five years in the public sector I can tell you that I’ve worked with some of the most talented procurement professionals of my 24 year long career. In both YPO and our customers’ organisations, like minded procurement professionals are coming together to really challenge the status quo, challenge the traditional constraints and we’re not accepting anything other than the best!
One of the questions I’ve levied at my own organisation, YPO, as a local authority owned not for profit public sector buying organisation, is how can we be of most help and support to our customers? Beyond simply letting frameworks (which in my humble opinion we do quite well), in addition to this, what else could/should we do? I’ve been working hard to answer that question and so I’m very pleased to announce several additional services that YPO customers and suppliers can now access.
Firstly, I’m very proud to announce we have established a partnership with Procurement Leaders (PL). As a procurement practitioner myself I understand first hand the practical challenges we face in category management in gathering intelligence, market info and then translating them into category strategy. It’s time consuming but critical.
Having been a member of PL for the last seven years, I’m a big fan of accessing their exceptional category intelligence as well as utilising their strategy and market information to help me quickly but robustly get into decision making mode, developing strategy that delivers. I’ve seen first hand the increase in savings and efficiencies that both I and my teams have delivered through utilisation of PL intelligence and infrastructure.
It was important to me to be able to try and get this kind of intelligence, information and infrastructure into the public sector in an affordable way and so through our partnership with PL, YPO customers can have access to the global network at a vastly reduced rate. There is no constraint to number of licences or reduction in content, put simply YPO has invested in the network so that our customers can access the content in an affordable way. Membership for YPO customers, through YPO is less than £2,000 per year.
Secondly, I not only accept but embrace the unique position a public sector procurer has in relation to social value. Although we are mandated by law now, it has been a long held view of mine that it is absolutely right that “value” can be as much about social impact as financial impact.
Through procurements, I and my team have led, we’re creating employment opportunities through job creation, apprenticeship schemes, work experience opportunities and we’re doing so focusing on groups of people most vulnerable and most in need. Through embedding the UN Sustainable Development Goals, that we have re-interpreted into a UK and public sector context, we’re working hard to embed social value in every single procurement we run.
Melissa Bell, our dedicated Sustainable Procurement Manager is developing projects that make a difference to homelessness, support charities, encourage supplier and staff volunteering, target food poverty, in work poverty and where possible work in support of both education and the care system.
As the CIPS Knowledge Partner for social value, we’ve committed to being at the heart of the social value debate, using procurement to really make a difference socially. To that end, we want to help our suppliers tell their social value stories. We’re not judging who is good, better or best in our supply chains - we’re not here to be a judge, but we do know that there’s some amazing social value being delivered and we want to make sure our customers know and can access the great work our suppliers are doing.
We’ve partnered with Net Positive Futures to do this and recently we launched to a small group of suppliers (300), the Net Positive Supplier Engagement Tool, which is a quick and easy way for suppliers to not only tell their social value story but also to help them develop their approach to social value for the future. It also allows suppliers to create an action plan that shows what is currently being done and what’s to come in the future and these plans can be submitted into bids, helping suppliers to be credible when competing for business.
As we know, social value is becoming more substantially weighted in bids and so we’re giving our suppliers a way of telling us and our customers of the great work they’re doing. And believe me there is some amazing work going on! Did you know for example, that through our Enforcement Agencies DPS, some of the providers on the DPS are going into schools and universities giving advice about how to prevent being in debt and what to do if you do find yourself with money worries.
We’re also just about to start working with a multi academy trust in Bristol and the local supply chains to help them build a new chicken coup at one of their schools. We’re also working with local hotels to develop the provision washroom facilities for homeless people. The opportunities to do good through procurement are phenomenal and the Supplier Engagement Tool helps us capture and work with our supply chains to increase the positive impact we have socially.
New Supplier Engagement – Meet the Buyer Days
Thirdly, we’re launching this week our ‘New Supplier Engagement’ infrastructure. We accept that it can be incredibly hard for businesses to build a relationship with a public sector organisation outside of the traditional bid process. Through research, businesses have told us that communicating proactively with a PSBO for example, when you don’t already have an existing relationship, can be difficult, if not impossible.
Not everything is about the physical competition process of ‘bidding’ and although we take our regulatory responsibilities very seriously, at the very heart of the regulations is fairness, transparency and openness. Our new supplier engagement structure is the epitome of these very things and from May, on the 3rd Wednesday of every month any business who is not a current supplier to us, can book a slot to talk to our category teams.
Meetings can be face to face, over the phone or by Skype and are designed for us to get to know the market (after all, if we don’t know the market, how can we help connect it to our customers well) and also for the market to get to know us. This engagement structure doesn’t replace the bid process - winning work will need to be done in the same way it always has - but this will add in a communication route that currently is missing.
As well as being a procurement professional for 24 years, for the last six years I have also been a small business owner and I have seen first hand how difficult it can be, especially for SMEs to form and build relationships that help deliver better business answers. And given where I started with this blog, better business answers are what it’s all about right now.
YPO Shared Services Division
And lastly for now, following a number of requests to provide temporary procurement resource, we have developed the YPO Shared Services Division. As a procurement professional, I have lived with the difficulties of insufficient resource at various points throughout my career and there have been times when I’ve been frustrated about what ‘could’ be delivered if only we had the resource.
The difficulty of writing the business case for permanent resource hasn’t diminished over the years, if anything, permanent headcount is under even more pressure, teams are reducing rather than increasing and so I wanted to develop something that answered this problem.
Over the last 12 months through YPO procurement resource, we’ve supported customer organisations with different types of resource ranging from interim Heads of Procurement, Buyers, Commercial Managers as well as running further competitions on non YPO frameworks. We have now developed a suite of resource services that are available to purchase that either replace the need for permanent resource, offset some temporary volume capacity issue, identify opportunities for savings/efficiencies or help buy time for a longer term solution to be put together.
These are in addition to the regular advice and guidance on what frameworks exist in the market (including frameworks/DPSs that are not part of YPO’s portfolio) and in addition to running further/mini competitions off YPO frameworks free of charge.
YPO’s customers can access any or all the services we offer which include in brief the following:
- Further competition on an existing but non YPO Framework
- Running a competitive tender – specification and tender docs exist (including terms and conditions and evaluation criteria)
- Running a competitive tender – end to end, documents, advertising, evaluation/moderation, award and templates for ongoing SRM and contract management
- Running an evaluation/moderation for ITT
- Specification writing only
- Spend analytics (with opportunities analysis)
- Compliant template pack
- Learning and Development Sessions – The World of Procurement Toolkit – Compliance (OJEU, Social Value Act, Modern Slavery etc), procurement skills, preparing for and running tenders, mini competitions, spec writing, evaluations/moderation and award, etc.
As I said in a previous blog, being a public sector procurement professional is not for the faint hearted. There’s a lot of pressure for us to stand up and be counted, to deliver in ways that add value and to be shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues responsible for the delivery of front line services.
There can be no doubt that now is the time for us to stand together, to be a united set of professionals with the common goal of offsetting as much financial pressure as we can. For me personally, the need for procurement to be the very best version of itself makes it a very exciting time to be both in procurement and specifically in the public sector. I know that procurement can be transformational, that as professionals we can help change and shape the value of what procurement delivers.
As an agent of YPO, it is my job to help YPO be the very best public sector buying organisation it can be. Hopefully these new additions to the services we offer will do exactly that.
For more information on any of the above, please feel free to get in touch at [email protected].
Read last blog by Gillian Askew