All posts by Euan Granger

The Age of Influence – Are you a Player?

Could the age of influence be drawing to a close? Or does it now reflect the changing attitudes to advertising and promotion in the social media environment?

Cristiano Ronaldo (186 million followers), Ariana Grande (165 million) and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (159 million) have gathered some of the largest audiences on Instagram. But a celebrity status and a huge following doesn’t necessarily lead to great influence. The Digital Marketing Institute has shown that there is a greater level of trust placed in an influencer versus a celebrity.  

But as an “experiencer”, you may have the most engagement of all! 

In the first article of this series I established the context for how the nature of influence is changing the digital age. As people’s consumption of media and social media changes, so does how we perceive people to be ‘influential’ in our lives. Individuals from all walks of life now have a platform to share their thoughts, experiences and daily lives. 

However, the paradox in some ways of this situation is that the younger generation have been able to build larger followings, and greater influence, despite having theoretically less to offer and share. While this is not at the expense of the older generations doing the same, Gen X and Baby Boomers are certainly lagging behind in the circles of “must know” social media influencers. 

There is still an opportunity for these generations to build their own influence on social media, but potentially against a backdrop of the waning powers of influencers as a whole. Cynicism, controversy, commercialisation and over-saturation have all played a part in the erosion of influencers’ status. Far from being an end, however, this may represent the next evolution of the digital age. 

To understand this further, we need to revisit the categorisation of influencers and view this through the lens of a shifting balance of power. 

Waning Influence and Diminishing Returns? 

Micro influencers (those with an audience of 10,000 people or fewer) are likely to be able to command an audience in their niche, irrespective of the changing environment. Many of this group are seen as ‘Experiencers’, the go-to group for recommendations about products, services and experiences.  

It’s in the grouping of the macro influencers, commanding audiences of over 250,000 people and generally found in the world of celebrity, where changes in influence may be felt most keenly. These influencers have traditionally had their seat of power on sites such as Instagram, rather than YouTube or Snapchat. 

As I mentioned in my introduction, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ariana Grande and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson have gathered the three largest audiences on Instagram. There isn’t an out-and-out digital celebrity in the site’s top 10 accounts and certainly no politicians or other, more traditional, influencers. 

Research has shown that the influence of social media posts differs depending on whether they were posted by an influencer or a celebrity. This is largely down to the question of engagement versus impact. Celebrities may have huge audiences, but products they promote may only be applicable to a small percentage of them (engagement). And while they can reach this audience, they are unlikely to be able to change consumer behaviours (impact). 

Celebrities frequently have their own brands and products to promote, as well as those offered by marketers. All these posts may also be treated with a level of cynicism from the wider audience, part of which can be attributed to the truly eye-watering sums of money being earned for sponsored posts. 

Money = Influence? Or Influence = Money? 

Sponsored posts, adverts, product promotions. If you have a big enough audience on social media and a big enough personal profile, then you might be approached by a brand to help market their products. This can be quite a lucrative opportunity – even if you aren’t as high profile as Kim Kardashian, who reportedly charges over $250,000 for an Instagram photo.  

The greater the audience, the higher the payment (on average): 

  • Instagram: $1,000 per 100,000 followers 
  • Snapchat: starts at $500 per campaign in 24 hours 
  • YouTube: Roughly $2,000 per 100,000 followers (this could go as high as an average of nearly $4,000 with 500k+ followers) 

And these sums are still rising – and at a rate of approximately 50 per cent per year since 2017 according to the Wall Street Journal. Which somewhat flies in the face of the question of declining influence and impact. It may also go some way to explain why 75 per cent of children dream of becoming YouTubers and why many people are aiming for a hyphenated job title including the word ‘influencer’, rather than a more traditional career as experienced by previous generations.  

This is where we can loop back to our original point of why social media influencers are largely from Gen X. They are the ones who appear on reality TV, who are the new generation of footballers who already have a social media following, who understand how best to leverage their own brand and use social media to their advantage. 

Real World Influence 

A brief interlude to discuss influence in the real world. This is not to say that Dwayne Johnson and Ariana Grande don’t operate in the real world, but their influence largely comes through on social media. However, as influence doesn’t necessarily need to be linked to selling of products or promotion of brands. It can be linked to real-world events and the increasing stature of an individual. 

One such recent example can be seen in New York Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo. Before March 2020, Cuomo was little known outside of his state and certainly didn’t have a strong influence outside of the USA. However, Cuomo’s leadership in response to the coronavirus outbreak and how hard New York had been hit by it.  

Between January and March 2020, Cuomo’s Twitter following went up by 31 per cent, his Instagram followers by 64 per cent. Not only has his audience increased, but his reception and perception to his message, which has been described as “frank” and “honest”, with his briefings drawing praise from all corners of the political and media spectrum.  

Positive comparisons have been made with the response of other world leaders, including President Trump. Not only has this exponentially increased Cuomo’s influence across the real and digital worlds, but it has raised his profile to an extent that he is being talked about as a future Presidential candidate.  

It just goes to show how digital influence could potentially have a huge real-world impact.  

Ads and Controversy 

It could be argued that many influencers are not sufficiently attuned to the risks associated with their influence, as recent controversies have shown. Fake news, advertising poor or harmful products, not marking posts as ads and marketing goods or services to vulnerable or impressionable audiences (i.e. children) are just some of these. 

There are site-specific guidelines or requirements to do with the posting of sponsored content, but even with this content can be misleading. Any sponsored content on Instagram, for example, is required to have ‘#Ad’ at the top of the post, but it is frequently either buried in a flood of hashtags on the post or missing entirely. 

There are reports that companies actively dissuade influencers from mentioning that a post is an ad, while many also fail to disclose their paid partnerships with influencers. On the other side, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has pushed a number of celebrities, including Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora and Alexa Chung, to commit to disclosing payments for sponsored posts on social media. 

This is not to tar all influencers with the same brush. Many follow the regulations as they cannot afford the reputational damage, or to pay back monies earned, when being an influencer is their sole source of income. However, from the outside, these influencers would seem to be the exception rather than the norm which further undermines their credibility and impact. 

Changing the Game 

Could greater regulation assist in this? And could many influencers who already follow the existing regulations benefit from stricter rules? There is always going to be a minority at the very least who seek to circumvent regulations, but these influencers could find themselves squeezed out through a loss of audience and influence for failing to play by the rule. 

This could be the next, much needed, evolution in the social media age. It could arrest any decline in influence and potentially remove the idea that being an influencer is not a “real career”. And by doing so, this would open the opportunity for others to become influencers and bridge the generational gap that appears to exist in the current environment. 

For procurement, it could mean having a market and audience to increase influence, both as individuals and as a profession. How procurement could leverage this changing environment will be the subject of the third and final article in this series, coming soon on Procurious. 

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

Who Has Influence And How Do You Get More Of It?

Influence comes in all forms and from a variety of different sources. But, in the digital age, is the nature of influence changing? And how might it change further over the next few years?


What does influence look like in your life? Who are the main influencers? Depending on a great number of factors, including your values, norms, gender, race and age (amongst many others), the people who have influenced your life to this point represent a very diverse cross-section of society. And it’s likely that these influencers will change over the course of your lifetime.

How people find and consume information has changed drastically in the past decade. The relentless growth of social media and digital channels for data, news and opinion has provided new sources for people to use. This has, in turn, led to the growth of digital and social media ‘influencers’, all of whom offer something slightly different and command a different audience.

In this series of articles, I’ll look at what influence is and who the influencers are in the digital age and why this might seem paradoxical. I’ll cover the notion that the power of influencers may be on the wane, before concluding by looking at the divergence of this versus procurement influencers, and how procurement can leverage this thinking to grow influence in the right places.

The Context

There has been plenty written about influence in the past (including articles here on Procurious), including looking at how individuals can measure and increase their own. To provide a bit of context for the whole series, first we need to provide some definitions on our key terms.

The Cambridge English dictionary defines ‘influence’ as, “the power to have an effect on people or things, or a person or thing that is able to do this”. When we consider influence in our lives, what does this look like? It could be things we read, see and engage with on a day-to-day basis, or something that resonates with us.

Influences are usually delivered or underpinned by an ‘influencer’ – “someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave”. In our lives, this could be anyone from parents, family and friends, to colleagues, peers, celebrities and/or global figures.

It could be argued that this definition is more traditional, yet not necessarily outdated. In the digital age, the term might be better defined as, “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media”. We might not all be consuming a product, but the influence is there nonetheless.

What does this mean for individual people and how they are influenced? Is it changing the nature of influence? This is still up for debate.

The Changing Influence Environment

Consider the public’s consumption of information 50 years ago. This is long before the advent of the Internet and 24/7 connectivity and long before social media was even first considered. There was the print media and the original three channels on the TV. What seemed like a broad spectrum at the time now looks very narrow.

Influencers at this time would probably have been local or national, rather than international. The range would have been limited to those people who were well-known, who appeared on TV or radio frequently and were considered as experts in their fields. We’re talking here about politicians, celebrities, businesspeople or personalities.

In 2020, we have a world of information at our fingertips all hours of the day and night. We can connect with individuals in all walks of life, discussing and sharing about more topics than we could think of. These new influencers are freely accessed on social media and can create a large-scale, global audience fairly easily (comparatively to 50 years ago anyway).

News, Media & Video

The changing nature of how we consume media and content has enabled more individuals to gain traction in the social media environment. YouTube is a massively popular platform for the new generation of influencers. Ad sales alone in 2019 generated $4.7 billion (£3.62 billion) for parent company Alphabet.

It’s easy to see why when research shows that two-thirds of Millennials prefer YouTube to traditional television, and that there are over 1 billion hours of online content viewed daily. For an individual to get started, all they need is a computer, a social media account, a camera and/or microphone, some basic editing skills and a ‘hook’.

It better be a good ‘hook’ though – 20 per cent of social media users admit that they will stop watching a video if it hasn’t hooked them in the first 10 seconds.

For influencers this means that they need to know how to attract and retain their audience, but also produce quality content. For some, it will be enough to share their knowledge. Others will only gain a small audience, or a larger audience over a longer period. But a minority will gain thousands of followers quickly, and become recognisable ‘influencers’.

Social Media – Gen Z’s World?

Which brings us to our individuals and influencers-to-be. On social media, they are categorised in three groups:

  1. Micro influencers – offer authority on a specific and narrow niche, generally with smaller audiences (10,000 people or less). They can be a useful group for marketers as they are more affordable and have higher levels of engagement.
  2. Power middle influencers – have audiences ranging for 10,000-250,000 people and likely already have experience working with brands.
  3. Macro influencers – these are the digital celebrities on social media, with an audience of over 250,000 people. Their potential reach is huge, but they are more costly for marketers and have a lower engagement rate.

If celebrities make up a large percentage of the ‘macro’ influencers, then we can consider the ‘power middle’ as the new generation of influencers. And this new generation is largely made up of younger Millennials or Gen Z (those born since 1997). In 2018, the top 10 highest earners on YouTube were all, apart from 2, under 30.

The highest earner was Ryan Kaji, who stars in the ‘Ryan’s World’ channel, with earnings of $22 million. He’s 8 years old. It’s no wonder that children and teenagers galore think that being an influencer is a career route they want to take.

Does this then give credence to the idea that the world of social media and digital influence belongs to Gen Z? It’s an interesting question that provides us with an interesting paradox.

A Matter of Gravitas? Or Consumption?

If influence in the past has been related to experience, knowledge, gravitas and global renown (not necessarily traits only found in older people), then how is there more prominence for younger influencers despite having (theoretically) less to offer?

Consider this list of the “must know” influencers in 2019. You could argue that older generations are being squeezed out of influencer circles in the digital world. This could easily be linked to how younger generations consume their media and content. You could also argue that, in the digital world, there is room for all to exist. An older generation of influencers could attract an older generation of followers, assuming these followers consume their content digitally.

However, this generation may already have missed the boat as social media influence shifts again. As the digital world continues to evolve, so does the nature of influence and its perception. So, is this generation too late? Or could they stand to benefit just as much as the game changes again? We’ll cover this and more in the next article in this series.

To hear from top procurement influencers, be sure to join up and be part of the Procurious network. With 37,000 members, this is the place to gain knowledge and insights into the latest procurement and supply chain matters.

5 Reasons Why Santa is the Ultimate Procurement Professional

Think you’re at the peak of the procurement and supply chain profession? Think again – Santa is the ultimate procurement professional (festively speaking…).

santa
Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

We’re fast approaching the end of 2019. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and consider what we have all achieved. We can look at all our successes, the lessons we have learned and everything that we will do in 2020. Perhaps there’s even a plan for how to take the next big step to that coveted leadership role in the profession.

But at this time of year, we all need to remember that our efforts pale in comparison to one individual. As we start thinking about the office party season, holidays and general festivities, this individual is only just revving up into top gear. Their whole year is driving towards this moment, but they are as prepared as they ever are.

And, while displaying all the skills we seek as a top procurement professional, they’ll deliver on all the wishes and promises that have been made. We are, of course, talking about…Santa. Father Christmas. Pére Noël. Svaty Mikolas. Kris Kringle.

Of course, there are other brilliant procurement professionals out there. But, at least in a festive setting, there’s none like Santa Claus for getting the job done. Here are my 5 reasons why:

1. Santa always has the right specification

Working tirelessly with his external (children, parents) and internal (elves, Mrs. Claus) stakeholders, he makes sure the specification is right. It can’t be a coincidence that children get exactly what they ask for, year after year. It all comes down to knowing your customers and then passing on the full specification to your manufacturing department/elves.

2. His Logistics operation is second to none

The global population is currently 7.7 billion people. Of this, an estimated 1.9 billion are children. Let’s assume then that the average household contains 4 people – this means Santa will visit 1.9 billion homes.

If there are 2 presents per child, this is a whopping 3.8 billion presents, delivered at a rate of 158.3 million per hour, 2.6 million present per minute. All of this with a team of 9 reindeer and one sleigh. Without the best logistics division and the latest technology, there’s no way all the presents are delivered to the correct child!

3. Belief, Influence, Leadership

Santa wields influence that most procurement leaders can only dream of. A following of magical, semi-magical and mortal people and creatures all follow him willingly. They work for the entire year to prepare for one day, then start again for the following year almost immediately.

Forming part of this leadership is belief. As we all know well (or at least we should) Santa’s sleigh and reindeer don’t fly without the belief in him and the Christmas spirit. And given he’s not missing deliveries to your house, it’s safe to assume this belief is still going strong!

4. Santa can always get the right price

Short of being some form of crazy, benevolent trillionaire (with superlative investments), Santa needs to be a dynamite negotiator or run the best RFQs. How else could he source all the toys or raw materials without bankrupting himself each year?

And like the best procurement professional, he doesn’t pass any cost increases on to his customers but works out the best deals to keep costs down so his end customers (the parents, of course!) don’t have to foot the bill.

5. He’s got the Nice-Naughty List on blockchain

How else do you create a fully traceable, immutable record of who has been naughty and nice in any given year? Santa needs to be able to trust the information he has on all behaviours, without the possibility that it has been compromised. Plus, it’s also handy for making sure that all the sourcing he does is ethical and sustainable…

So, if you have ambitions for a higher office in 2020, you’d do worse than looking at Santa as a good example to follow. And if all else fails, at least you’ll have a sunnier outlook on life! Ho, ho, ho!

Procurement – Are We Our Own Worst Enemies?

We spend so long looking outwards at the wider environment for our key issues. But are we missing the elephant in the room? Is Procurement actually one of Procurement’s worst enemies?

own worst enemies
By MarinaP/ Shutterstock

For anyone who has experience working in public sector procurement, the strictures of the rules and regulations are well known and often highly frustrating. So it would have come as a surprise to many when former UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced a plan that would ‘free the NHS’ from Government procurement rules.

Cue many cornflakes being choked upon around the UK upon hearing this news. And then numerous procurement professionals taking a very keen interest in where the story was going next. 

After all, if you were to speak to any procurement professional with experience of working in the public sector (and their client departments), you would probably get a fair picture pretty quickly of the key barrier, hindrance, ball and chain impacting their work. Administration, bureaucracy, paperwork, regulations – take your pick. Once you enter a public sector procurement process, it’ll be a while before you emerge out the other side. 

That’s not to say that these are bad things. The regulations help to bring openness, honesty and transparency to the process. They also make it fully auditable and able to be used as a shield against bad practice and spurious challenges. That said, there isn’t a single procurement professional who wouldn’t love to drop the regulations once in a while.

Who wouldn’t love a bit of extra ‘freedom’ to spend money in a more effective and efficient way. 

Worst Enemies – Self-Inflicted Pain 

Putting aside the UK and EU-wide regulations for a minute as an unavoidable consequence of public procurement (Prime Ministerial intervention pending…), we can turn a lens on the processes that procurement has set up for itself. Sure, the regulations are a pain, but they’re part and parcel of doing the job. What isn’t is the self-inflicted pain of all the additional administration that procurement loads on itself. 

Take a closer look at the processes in your organisation. Are they as lean as they can be? Do you have a set of toolkit documents that you can use for all your process? Or are you mired in repetitive documents that are all required, but aren’t adding any value to the process? 

This additional burden not only extends an already lengthy process, but also curtails the valuable time of your procurement professionals. Want a happy procurement team? Then it’s value and management, not process and admin. 

In previous articles, I’ve outlined both the importance of time management, but also the use of collaborative frameworks and other procurement routes that can be used to help use this precious time more effectively. What is more problematic, however, are the timescales attached to the procurement process that is specific to the individual organisation. 

Tender regulations aside, we’re talking about the additional time procurement builds into its own process that is potentially avoidable. Think internal approval processes, report writing and flurries of emails that could be taken care of with a short conversation or a really good document storage system. 

Strategies and Stakeholders 

Beyond this is a perceived acceptance by procurement of being strung along by Client department and stakeholders. Not just in taking on additional tasks for these groups, but not being strong enough to push back when things clearly aren’t progressing.

This is not an open invitation to undermine stakeholder relationships or burn bridges. But make it clear that a single stakeholder’s requirements are not the only thing that a Procurement Officer is working on, let alone responsible for. 

By having this bit of extra support for pushing back on project teams that are dragging their feet with important information or documents, and moving on to other projects that are set to go. Send someone to the back of the queue when they’re not ready more than once and they’ll get the message.

Finally, it’s worth considering how procurement chooses to set itself up strategically. Strategic structuring such as Category Management or embedding in project teams all have their pros and cons (enough for another article entirely). But stick too rigidly to any structure and it can cause issues. From imbalances in work levels across a department, to pigeon-holing your team members into one area or commodity, they’re all things that need to be considered on an on-going basis, not just once every 2-3 years. 

Adapt and Survive 

Not to get too Darwinian, but if procurement continues down some of these paths, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that we could see the profession as we know it cease to be. Market environments, technology and even organisations continue to grow and adapt organically. So why does procurement keep tripping itself up with rigid structures and tying itself up in bureaucracy and red tape? 

While I don’t advocate a ‘free-for-all’ approach to procurement, or believe that fully unstructured departments can work effectively all the time, there are changes that could be made to aid the survival of procurement in the long term. 

As a hero of mine once said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Quit being part of the problem.” 

Let’s stop ignoring the elephant in the room and take a long, hard look at ourselves. Procurement has enough challenges to contend with without adding more on itself. It’s where platforms such as Procurious are such a valuable tool. By talking our problems out, we can find collective solutions to the benefit of everyone. I, for one, am trying to do better and I’d love to work with you all to do more. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and others on the challenges facing public sector procurement. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

Building Bridges (Literally) – The Best of Procurement

Challenges and failures are all very well, but procurement only gets to develop if we talk about our wins. And we can all win if we learn from the best. 

By Kiwis/ Shutterstock

The Queensferry Crossing is a magnificent structure and feat of design and engineering. At 1.7 miles (2.7km) long, the bridge is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world. The project features innovative design and forms part of a huge, 13.7 mile (22km) upgrade in infrastructure, including intelligent transport systems and emission reducing technology.

With a project budget of between £1.7-2.3 billion at the pre-tender stage for the Forth Replacement Crossing (including the Queensferry Crossing Bridge and the surrounding infrastructure works), it’s no surprise that procurement was at the heart of the success of the project. Without great procurement and strong contract management, there is little chance that this would have been delivered in the manner it was, and provided the savings it did too. The procurement process itself delivered significant savings resulting in a reduced estimated budget of £1.45-1.6 billion.

An Audit Scotland report into the project undertaken in 2017 determined that the project had indeed delivered value for money, not surprising given that at a total spend of £1.34 billion, it provided an 8-16 per cent saving on the budget at the start of construction.

A number of strategies used by Transport Scotland for the project proved to be highly successful in the procurement exercise, such as the use of an extensive panel of KPIs, as well as allowing bidding consortia the freedom to suggest changes to designs that could potentially deliver savings and benefits.

The quality of the procurement was recognised in 2018 when Transport Scotland won the GO Infrastructure Project of the Year Award and the GO Excellence Scotland Award 2018/19 for the Forth Replacement (Queensferry) Crossing project at the 2018 GO Awards. There was further success for the project at the National GO2019 Awards in Birmingham, where it was awarded the GO Infrastructure Project of the Year.

In order to understand more about just what exactly made the procurement on this project such a success, I spoke to Lawrence Shackman, Project Manager for the Queensferry Crossing and Head of Rail Projects and Technical Services at Transport Scotland. So if you’re looking to learn from the best, now’s the time to pay attention!

What made the procurement exercise such a success to deliver the outcomes it did?

There were many good aspects to the exercise to make it a success. In particular, using the Competitive Dialogue method, which ensured we were able to engage fully with the tenderers in explaining the scope of the project, the reasoning behind the specimen design and the build process, their design and construction proposals and many other which helped to de-risk the project.

This also included supplying the tenderers with full project information, including ground investigation data and specimen designs to give examples of how the bridge, roads and associated infrastructure may be designed to satisfy the requirements.

What was the biggest challenge with the procurement and how did you overcome it?

There was a major risk that we would only be left with one bidder for the Principal Contract, as only two consortia tendered. We overcame the risk by using a Participation Agreement, signed by both tenderers, which guaranteed two things: 1 – that if Scottish Ministers did not proceed with the award of the Principal Contract, the tenderers would be reimbursed with their tender costs up to a value of £10 million; and 2 – if the contract was awarded, then the unsuccessful tenderer would be reimbursed half of their costs, up to a maximum value of £5 million.

This Agreement effectively helped to ensure that the competition remained through to submission of tenders, helping to minimise the risk of us only receiving one bid. That would have required significant additional time to verify that it represented value for money.

What lessons did you learn for future projects?

There are so many that it would be impossible to detail them all here! We intend to publish a Lessons Learned Report in the next couple of months.

If this article publishes after the publication of the report, I will link to it here.

Do you have any advice for other public sector procurement professionals working on tenders or projects to learn from your success?

Again, there are so many lessons we would share, as I have already done with other procurement professionals. Without going into too much detail, you need to ensure that you have good governance, good stakeholder engagement, technical competence, a realistic programme and cost estimating, plus robust risk management. A solid, consistent team is also essential to guide and manage the process.

Apply the Lessons

There won’t be many procurement professionals who have the opportunity to work on a project such as this, but that doesn’t mean to say that the lessons learned here are applicable across the entire profession.

Robust specifications, good stakeholder engagement, good governance and realistic programmes apply to big and small projects alike, and there is always the opportunity to look for more innovative methods to help with risk management or complex tenders.

So let’s focus on the positives, follow the path laid out for us by other professionals who have delivered successful, high-profile projects such as the Queensferry Crossing, learn from them and see what we can do in our own organisations. Remember – there is always someone to learn from who has been there, seen it, done it, so who not learn from them before we start.

Why Knowing your Market Can be the Key to Success

Are you dooming yourself to failure in procurement by not knowing your market before you start? Market research and analysis is a key component of the procurement process – but it needs to be done right.

By PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/ Shutterstock

When Martin Luther King Junior stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in front of 250,000 civil rights supporters, he knew his audience. He knew that the people he was addressing supported his cause and agreed with his words. The speech was a success and helped paved the way for President John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Act.

This is not intended to be a crass use of what is one of the finest speeches in global history, but an example of how success can be tied to knowing how an audience will react to words, proposals and actions. 

Conversely, not taking the time to understand the audience or the market can lead to painful rejection (though in fairness, sometimes the failure to understand the market lies on the other side of the table). Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were rejected by Atari and HP in when they presented the concept of the personal computer. Perhaps just as famously, record label Decca rejected The Beatles stating that “guitar groups were on their way out”. 

Both of these cases, and many more, are a prime example of organisations not understanding their market and ending up without that all important ‘win’ in the column.

Criticality of Analysis 

You’re probably wondering how this relates to public procurement. The examples here show how critical it is to know your audience and market, and that the key is that hard work needs to be put in to provide the foundation for success. 

Take a look back at your own career in procurement. How many times have you gone to market on the back of flawed or non-existent market research and analysis? When you have laid your hands on the final draft of a specification, did you always trust that the input was from a good cross-section of the market? 

You may think you lack the time or resources to carry out market analysis as part of your tender process, but the business case for doing it well is there for all to see. Market research can be critical in ensuring that the goods, services or works being procured meet the needs of the taxpayers, at a cost that is acceptable and provides best value. 

Public sector organisations can use market research and analysis to get a greater understanding of their customers (usually the end-users of the services), to analyse the market and the competition in a particular area, and then to test before launching services.

Informed Decision Making

The same applies in procurement, just from a different angle. Procurement gets to understand the supply market, its competitiveness, how mature it is and the key suppliers, some of whom may already be supplying to the public sector.

It creates a level of informed decision-making, rather than approaching every tender in the same way. As it’s put in the Procurement Journey, analysis of key trends and market dynamics and how the goods or services in question sit within this can help to shape a specification, tender and route to market. 

It can also help procurement to understand the role of SMEs in the market and how they could better set out a tender to increase SME involvement. Even down to using market analysis in order to understand how commercial models can be set up and what Community Benefits suppliers would or could offer as part of tender submissions. 

Market Research Favourites

There are a variety of methods available to procurement too, some which are desktop based, others which require direct interaction with the market itself.

A few of the most common are listed below:

  • Prior Information Notice (PIN) – The PIN can be used to gather information on almost any aspect of a tender and allows procurement to understand and gauge the interest in the supply market. The added benefit is that, depending on the type of PIN used, they can also be used as a call for competition and reduce procurement timescales. 
  • Soft Market Engagement – This doesn’t have the formality of a PIN, but can be just as useful. It can be done via email or phone calls and is particularly useful if there is a smaller, known supply market, and the engagement is being done to test the water on a specification or aspect of the Technical or Commercial Evaluation.
  • SWOT, PESTLE, Kraljic – Old favourites for anyone who has ever done courses in procurement! These can provide a picture on the suppliers (SWOT), market conditions (PESTLE) and product category (Kraljic), better informing decision-making and strategy.
  • Applied Analytics – The likes of Dun & Bradstreet and Spikes Cavell provide information on the supply market, from spend analytics to market analysis. All of this data is presented in a usable form, saving procurement from having to carry this out themselves. 

Paralysis by Analysis 

While market analysis is a critical part of the procurement process, it’s important to remember that it’s only one part of a much wider whole. Perfection is the enemy of progress – striving to capture all the information possible, to speak to every supplier and put this all together can lead to stagnation in the process and actively hinder decision making. 

Avoid decision-making by committee at all costs and decide where you, as procurement, will draw a line under the analysis and move to the next stage. Mark this out at the start of the process and stick to the timelines. After all, you don’t want to spend so long analysing the market that you never actually go to market. 

Know your audience, pick your method and crack on! 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

The Best Procurement – Not Spending Money?

When it comes to getting the most out of your budgets, it’s not enough to just minimise your spend any more. The best approach may actually be trying not to spend any money at all – an anachronism to any procurement professional.

By Fernando Cortes/ Shutterstock

It was the great philosopher, Ronan Keating, who once sang of procurement, “You spend it best, when you spend nothing at all…”. This may be a gross exaggeration (sorry, Ronan!) but even if the words aren’t necessarily true, the sentiment is. Particularly for procurement professionals in the current age. 

We’ve talked ad nauseam about the ‘B’ word (no, not Brexit, the other one), about the issue of budgets (or lack thereof) in the public sector. Not only are budgets shrinking, but for many public bodies it’s become a matter of prioritisation of spending, which is opening up a whole new can of worms. 

In Scotland between 2013-14 and 2017-18, revenue funding from the Scottish Government for Councils fell by 7.1%, compared to the overall decrease of 1.8% for the Scottish Government itself. Surprisingly, for 2018-19, funding has actually increased by 0.3%. 

However, due to the nature of the services being delivered by many Local Authorities, there are still substantial budget holes to be filled. Maintaining, and improving, public services is only the start. In most cases it’s about delivering the same, and often a greater number of, services and all the new ‘one-off’ projects that are becoming prevalent, while managing the same, or smaller, budgets. 

In light of this, professionals have to invest wisely to help future savings targets. It becomes a matter of not only saving at the bottom line, but working hard to add value at the top line. 

Essentially what procurement is trying to do is to squeeze every penny – just maybe not like this…

Spend to Save 

So what are procurement doing in the short-term, or what could they be doing better? One thing that procurement might want to consider is the concept of spend to save. It might seem a bit backwards, but it’s a concept that can work. Let’s put this all in context with an example we will all recognise and be able to relate to. 

Unless you are working for the most progressive organisation in the world, you probably don’t have the latest IT hardware or software in your office. And, as much as you go on about day after day, you realise that this is unlikely to change in the near future. After all, the outlay on new IT equipment looks like a really expensive investment when looking at the bottom line figure. 

And who wants to be the Local Authority on the front page of the paper spending, say, £1 million on new IT when services are being cut, or Council tax is being increased? 

But consider the total cost implications. How much is being spent on maintaining legacy systems? Are browsers and software even supported anymore? And how much time are employees losing to logging in in the morning, programmes hanging or browsers not supporting key websites and applications? 

Consider the time it takes to complete a simple task like creating a spreadsheet, or uploading documents to a web-based portal. It’s hard to quantify how much time this takes over a day, but if this is a repetitive task then that time can start to add up. Lower productivity, lower efficiency and unhappy staff – all as a result of poor IT.

Then consider the efficiencies you could find with better hardware and software. You can give employees the option to work more flexibly and could potentially reduce the onward costs of contracts such as printing, annual maintenance and support services 

All of a sudden, that £1 million investment doesn’t seem so big any more… 

Don’t Spend…to Save 

But if making that outlay is a step too far for your organisation, then what you might need to do is to step all the way back to the beginning. After all, the best saving procurement can make is to not spend any money in the first place. Obvious and not exactly revolutionary, but still a solid strategy when it comes to spend management. 

How do we do it? It requires a strong will to say no and probably a fair amount of senior management buy-in and support. After all, you’ll be saying no to clients and end users and it’s nice to know that your managers and heads of department have your back if it’s taken above your head. 

What it boils down to is separating the wants from the needs, the nice to haves from the must haves. It’s a process procurement can lead on, but it needs support from all stakeholders to make it work. At the outset procurement can create and manage a User Intelligence Group (UIG) within the organisation, getting all the necessary people in the same room to thrash out the details and scope of requirements. 

This not only makes the process more efficient (and saves time and resources), but gives everyone an equal say, a chance to have their voice heard and, at very least, no chance to say they weren’t consulted! From this you can get your baseline specification and then engage with the market to assess the feasibility and see what goods or services are out there that could do the job for you. 

And finally, to link us all the way back to the beginning, you still have the power to not spend if you don’t think the solution is fit for purpose. Because if procurement are going to be the gatekeeper for the organisation’s spend, we should have the power to close the gate before the horse bolts once in a while. Don’t you think? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

What To Do When Stakeholder Management Gets Tough

Everyone has encountered difficult customers or stakeholders when running a procurement exercise. It’s how we choose to deal with them that can define success or failure for our tenders.

By zoff / Shutterstock

Recently I’ve been running a recruitment process at work, using the oft-derided and disliked ‘competency-based’ questions as part of the interviews. One question in particular got me thinking about my own experiences in procurement. That of dealing with a difficult stakeholder or customer relationship.

We’ve all had them, even if they didn’t necessarily feel like that at the time. Whether it’s the end user who keeps changing their mind about what they want, or the stakeholder who believes their opinion is more important than everyone else’s. And then there’s the supplier who believes they know better than you, that your process is flawed or you’re asking the wrong questions, and that they have the key to fixing it.

These aren’t necessarily difficult or challenging relationships all the time. Good stakeholder management encourages input from all sides, but there are times that opinions are unhelpful, unwelcome or downright wrong. And when this is the case, but the stakeholder remains convinced that they are correct, the relationship can prove to be make or break for the success of the exercise.

Path of Least Resistance

This brings me back to the original question that got me thinking in the first place. The question continues by looking for more detail on how the relationship was dealt with and what the outcome was. The aim of the question is to dig a little deeper into the competency of ‘influence’ and establish how the candidate managed the situation to a successful conclusion.

But as anyone who has encountered this issue in the past knows, success isn’t always a guarantee (more on this shortly). A good outcome may not necessarily be a bell-ringing, trumpeter-blowing success for the tender. Sometimes the best outcome is no outcome at all, a compromise, or a solution that follows the path of least resistance in order to preserve a much-needed relationship for the future.

And that is the tale that I want to tell now. Instead of focusing on the theory, I wanted to share a story from my own procurement experience where hard lessons were learned and gaining the realisation that not all relationships are destined to be easy.

Introducing: The Engineer

DISCLAIMER: The people in this story ARE actually real and any resemblance to anyone you know is because you have probably met someone just like this! I have, however, changed names and kept details deliberately vague to protect identities.

Picture this. A young graduate procurement trainee, a bit green, a bit wet behind the ears. New job, new suit, new city. Yes, you’ve guessed it – it’s me! If you’re picturing something similar to a parent’s photo of their children on their first day of school, that’s probably what I looked like to tell the truth.

I hadn’t been in procurement very long at all, having fallen into the profession while looking for graduate roles around the UK. It was all a bit new to me, but I’d delivered a couple of projects and was getting the hang of what was required. I’d started to build up a good foundation of knowledge and some solid, supportive relationships across the business.

That was until I met The Engineer. The Engineer had a reputation that preceded him – hard to pin down, hard to please, just generally hard to work with.

Colleagues more experienced than I (this is where the warning signs should have come in that I was getting the dubious please of this particular contract!) told stories of a nice guy, but someone with very little time for procurement and procurement/tender activities. The department was a roadblock, the processes too cumbersome. He knew plenty of guys who could provide the goods quicker and cheaper. That was, after all, “what we’ve always done around here”.

A Challenging Time

My experience wasn’t any different to what I expected after these friendly warnings. Meetings came and meetings went and the only thing that changed was the date on the calendar. The Engineer was respectful and professional at all times in his demeanour towards me, but he seemed determined to shred the procurement process.

Specifications were blocked as too vague, or not meeting the needs of the department. There were complaints about opening this up to suppliers who had been used in the past as it was felt their products were inferior. In hindsight there are plenty things I could have done differently – brought in more senior team members (I didn’t want to compound my newness by seeming like I couldn’t handle this), or change tact to put it on him to drive it forward. But, as they say, hindsight is always 20:20.

Eventually we reached an unspoken agreement and understanding that gave us a resolution of sorts. We both realised that nothing was going to change, either in the product demands or the procurement process. The contract was eventually put in place with a good supplier and the goods were delivered in good time. It wasn’t the utopic procurement outcome I had envisioned, but it wasn’t too bad. And boy, did I learn a lot!

An Interview-Worthy Response?

No matter what you do or where you go, you’ll find relationships like this to deal with. It’s ultimately how you deal with them that you need to decide on. Each relationship will be different and your response to them will differ in line with this. It’s important to remember that no matter how hard the relationship, it still needs to be worked at, possibly even harder for the particularly challenging ones.

They may not provide you with a gold-plated, interview-worthy example, but these interactions can help you further down the line and it all helps with your personal development. Just remember, no matter how hard it is, don’t burn those bridges. They may be the ones you need to cross in the future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

Time to Tune into the Real Social Network

Procurement has not only great power, but also great responsibility to help drive social change. And embedding social value in tenders is only the start.

By STILLFX / Shutterstock



“No fundamental social change occurs merely because government acts. It’s because civil society, the conscience of a country, begins to rise up and demand – demand – demand change.”

Former Democratic Vice-President Joe Biden

Where does the real value of a contract lie for public sector organisations? Is it in achieving a low price for goods, services or works? Or in savings in the ongoing management of a contract? Could it be in maintaining critical services for vulnerable people? Perhaps in creating innovative solutions to issues that improve the lives of all citizens in a Local Authority, or wider, area?

The truth is that it is all of these things and more. Fundamentally, the delivery of services are the lifeblood of public sector organisations and the contracts, be they for goods, services or works, are the foundation of this. But where, in the past, there may have only been a focus on cost and quality, the expectations on and in procurement have changed markedly.

The change is shown in how procurement approach the nature of the total value of the contract. Not just the cost and quality, but what it actually delivers for wider society beyond the scope of requirements. Call it social value, call it social benefits, procurement are front and centre for organisations looking to embed this wider value into their contracts.

Fair Work and Community Benefits

The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 was introduced in order to ensure that public bodies consider how the services they commission and procure might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of their local area. However, it won’t be until later this year that contracts placed by central Government in the UK will have a mandatory requirement for social value considerations.

And this is where part of the issue lies in putting social value considerations into procurement processes. This regulation was only suggested and introduced in response to the collapse of Carillion, with the aim of “restoring trust between government, industry and the public”. Up until this point, any social value considerations had only been a consideration, rather than a mandatory evaluation criteria.

All this means that there are a considerable number of procurement professionals in the UK who have never put social value into their tenders or contracts. Any new measure, as with anything else, will require extensive training for buyers at a time where resources are stretched thin and training budgets are nigh-on non-existent in many cases.

However, there are a number of public bodies, particularly north of the border, who are already doing this. In 2015, the Scottish Government unveiled new guidance on making Fair Work Practices in public procurement. This included considerations on the Real Living Wage and made it a requirement for procurement to consider this as an evaluation criteria for each tender they undertook.

Now, nearly all Scottish Local Authorities have Fair Work Practices as an evaluation criteria in all procurement exercises. At Glasgow City Council, for example, Fair Work Practices has a defined weighting of 5 per cent, alongside Community Benefits as either as an evaluated (weighted at 10 per cent) or non-evaluated criterion.

Benefits for ALL to See

For procurement, Community Benefits and Social Value come in two main guises – what we expect from our suppliers; and what we expect from our purchasing. If procurement truly wants its suppliers to get tuned into this social network, then they need to be leading from the front. This means not only mandating it in contracts, but also engaging with Social Enterprises and running social projects of our own.

Investment in Social Enterprise will help to grow an already thriving sector which employs around 5 per cent of the UK workforce and is worth £60 billion towards UK GDP. The Big Issue, The Co-Op, Jamie Oliver’s ‘15’ restaurant are among the most well-known of these organisations.

(On a personal recommendation, try ‘Street and Arrow’ in Glasgow or ‘Streat’ in Melbourne and you’ll be doing your bit to support social enterprise!)

Beyond this, there are great examples of how large organisations are taking steps further to support social enterprise and add social value to contract. Liverpool Victoria is building extensive work with social enterprise into all of its procurement processes and is encouraging its own suppliers to get involved too.

Time to Grow your Network

Now it’s time for you to get involved and to make sure that you join your fellow procurement professionals in changing the world, one tender at a time. There are a couple of easy steps you can take and you don’t need to start big to get things up and running.

First, search out all the information and guidance you can find on social value, social enterprises and embedding this in procurement processes. Then find out whether or not your organisation is evaluating Community Benefits or Fair Work Practices as part of their tenders. Is it a mandatory criterion? Do your stakeholders even know about it?! Look to see if there is scope to add this, even starting with it as part of a wider question.

Finally (for now at least) you can start to look at contracts that could be performed by a social enterprise. Common ones include office supplies, coffee and catering, but the full list is much longer than that. There’s even provisions in the Public Contracts Regulations (2015) for run tenders for supported businesses only, which could put you well on your way to making a real difference in procurement.

After all, it’s what we’re here to do!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!


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The Time Paradox of Contract Management

When you’re busy it’s easy to let things slide and ignore contract management in the procurement process. But the idea that you’re saving yourself time by doing so is a paradox we would be well-served dismissing.

By andrey_l /Shutterstock

You’ve taken your time meticulously following the procurement process from inception of the idea through to contract award. You’ve spent all the time you needed getting your ESPD right and crafting some good contract documents to get the necessary competition and achieve best value. Your contract award reports have been signed off and you’ve even managed to fit in time for a lessons learned document.

But you’ve got another tender sitting waiting to be evaluated. And another that needs sign off from the stakeholders before you can publish. Not to mention that phone call you’ve just taken or email you’ve read assigning you a new project or asking for your input.

So you think to yourself, “It’s ok, I’ll arrange the mobilisation meeting and then the Operations side of the business can take it from there. After all, it’s an easy contract – it’ll take care of itself…”.

Stop. No really, stop. Why, after putting all the hard yards in to begin with, would you then choose to step back at such a critical juncture? Are you sure that without your input, all those savings and benefits you agreed with the supplier will be delivered? And can you prove you are getting what you asked for?

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Let’s take a step back from this and stop blaming ourselves as individuals. Time is not on procurement’s side (as I have said in the past) and there’s not always time to perform all the necessary tasks as part of the procurement process. When push comes to shove and there are tenders to be published, one of the first things to get dropped, alongside training and development, is frequently contract management.

Why? That’s a hard one to answer. In many public sector organisations, the issue comes down to an unholy trinity of reasons.

  1. A lack of resources in procurement departments, be that head count, budget, or similar;
  2. A lack of time, which has been covered extensively in the past; and
  3. A high churn of tenders, meaning that getting the contract signed has become the priority.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the public sector is falling victim to the paradox of contract management. It might be felt that there isn’t sufficient time to manage contracts effectively, but without a procurement focus, how are organisations going to realise savings offered by and agreed with suppliers.

In some cases, from personal experience, procurement isn’t even charged with the on-going contract management. In many organisations, both in the public and the private sectors, once procurement has put the contract in place, it’s passed to contract managers or end users for its duration.

Not Rising to the Challenge

Look for the importance of contract management and you don’t have to go far to see why and where it drives success. In the past 12 months there have been stark examples of where contract management has fallen down to disastrous and altogether spectacular effect.

The collapse of Carillion and the endless budget overruns of HS2 are just two examples. A bit further in the past, the National Programme for IT for the NHS, which cost £6 billion more than it should have and has, to date, only delivered a third of the predicted benefits, is another.

However, on the flip side of that there are examples of where good contract management has made a tangible (and quantifiable) difference in public sector projects. The new Queensferry Crossing over the Firth of Forth actually came in £100 million cheaper than initial estimates suggested, with credit being given to the overall management of the project.

The NHS Wales Informatics Service project has set up digital systems to aid patients with prescriptions and staff with communication, aimed at creating greater efficiencies across the strained health sector.

And if you’re unsure about procurement’s involvement in these projects, both have been nominated as regional winners for national awards at the GO Awards, which recognises best practice in public sector procurement across the UK.

Getting Mavericks Out of the Danger Zone

Let me start this section by contradicting much of what I have written before. Procurement needs to actively take on contract management, irrespective of the time commitment. And not only this, but it needs to be a priority on the same level as market analysis and tendering. As has been shown with the example above, good contract management can deliver savings and value, but it also extends beyond this too.

Improved compliance, standardising processes and procedures, spend and performance analysis and spend visibility are all key benefits. On top of this, it can help reduce maverick spend (a procurement favourite!) by taking away a route to using a non-contract supplier, or non-contract items.

And, as a final benefit, it’ll help you save time when it comes to retendering, extending or renewing contracts for existing services, as you’ll know far enough in advance to do the full procurement process properly. Not so much spend (money) to save (money), but more spend (time) to save (time). And maybe we can clear up a couple of paradoxes on the way!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!