The key to increasing your procurement influence
It is an obvious statement to make but an efficient strategic procurement department needs to have talented and motivated professionals delivering the key objectives. Having the right people doing the right things I think is the phrase. I noted that one of the key enablers in the recently published LGA National Procurement Strategy was developing talent. I have long held the view that you are only as good as your people and in Liverpool we have strived to try to recruit and retain talented procurement staff.
To do that you have to have the correct structures in place, both from a view of supporting the strategic aims of the business but also in meeting the aims of your staff. Talented procurement individuals for the most part crave aspiration and need a procurement path. It is my job to provide that as a head of service although I recognise that this cannot always be possible. In the end, somebody else may benefit from your nurturing of talent but we can sleep easy that we have supported a potential future procurement leader.
So you have the structure and you are beginning to attract the staff and develop your incumbent personnel. What next? Introducing the appropriate processes and governance structures are key. This can be a hard sell to frontline services but it is clear to me that procurement has to be seen as less of a process but more of a solutions provider. The key is that we promote ourselves as offering something different.
We do not just process tenders; we are bringing ideas and innovation to the table. We can speak the language of our key stakeholders and get their attention when the strategic discussions begin. Having a seat in those initial discussions gives us the platform to start increasing our influence and as such, key people start to listen and take notice of our ideas. When ideas develop into strategic that start to deliver solutions then you are already making some headway.
So how does this translate into increasing your influence with existing or potentially new supply partners? Well many of the above principles apply. Are we visible enough to our supply partners? I have come across many procurement teams in my career that simply are not both in terms of internal stakeholders but also to our suppliers. Get out there and dispel the procurement myths with your supply partners. There is much we can do to educate and get our supply base into a better position to become bid ready.
If you plan your procurement activity efficiently then you should have the appropriate legroom to engage with your potential market. Inform your suppliers of your intentions, seek input on strategy and, above all, listen. In the end, your intentions may remain but, if nothing else, they are alert to what is coming downstream. It is understood that more informed preparation and dialogue will lead to a more robust procurement and resultant solution. You must also offer your suppliers the chance to engage when the outcome of your activity is decided. A one-page letter detailing scores and other basic information is, in my view not enough. Help suppliers understand the strengths and weaknesses of their bids so that next time they are in a similar process they can submit a stronger bid.
We can also dilute onerous processes for smaller value procurement activity. Whilst transparency and fairness must always remain, we can achieve this in a much more appealing way to our local SME’s and suppliers generally. Also, train them to identify procurement opportunities and how to respond. Give them handy tips on the do’s and don’ts of a tendering process that will help with both your own organisations activity and that of others. It is always beneficial to understand in which markets are your local SME’s strong and where is there a relatively minor local influence. In such cases, training and engagement can be targeted and focussed on developing those markets.
In conclusion, there is much we can do to increase our influence and change some very dated perceptions of Public Sector procurement.