Big Ideas in UK & Public Procurement

Social value and collaboration – just the tip of the iceberg for the professionals in UK and public procurement.

Public Procurement

Ahead of the Big Ideas Summit 2016 this Thursday, we are taking a look at the key issues facing procurement in the coming years. We have asked experts and influencers in our community to share their Big Ideas on the themes we will be discussing on the day.

The concept of social value is one that has gained more traction, driven by public procurement professionals across the world. It also links heavily into the idea that procurement as a whole needs to collaborate and work together, something that we’ll also be discussing at Big Ideas.

We spoke to some of our UK-based professionals in the Procurious community to understand the big ideas in the UK and public procurement.

Helen Mackenzie, Head of Procurement, Scottish Local Government

Power Profiles - Helen MackenzieAs those of us working in or with public bodies across the world move forward through our journey of procurement reform, our challenge is now shifting from one where tackling corruption, compliance and procedures are key to one where we’re must add value whenever we can.

At the front end of the process, there’s been some innovative work looking at commissioning services using open problems. Barcelona and Stockholm have had some great results by shifting from specifying the service they wanted, to specifying the problem they wanted to solve.

Adding social value to public procurement contracts continues to be expected by policy makers. In Scotland, we’re including requirements to ensure fair work practices, including the payment of the living wage, and community benefit clauses, which have been used to create added value. For instance 1,000s of apprenticeships have been created as part of our contracts.

Ensuring our communities are involved at the heart of our procurement processes is perhaps the holy grail of public procurement. It’s something which isn’t easy to do, it’s going to require us to stretch our stakeholder engagement skills. The prize will be contracts which target resources where they are needed, people who feel public spending is actually being targeted at them and outcomes which will deliver real improvements in people’s lives.

If we’re successful in shifting our focus away from what we’ve always bought, to what we need to solve with community engagement and social value at the heart of what we do, we’ll certainly secure great contracts and we’ll make the savings we need to deliver in the process.

Jane Lynch, Lecturer, Cardiff Business School

Jane LynchLeading organisations today redesign processes for improving customer experience. This, they argue, leads to more effective business operations.

However, this may lead to initial process inefficiencies (i.e. higher process costs). Who and what should drive process improvement for our business? Is it the supply chain, the organisation’s strategy or is it all about the customer?

Chris Cliffe, Director, CJC Procurement Ltd

Power Profiles - Chris CliffeBig Ideas and innovation in procurement is certainly needed. However, not at the expense of the basics.

Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and apply it to procurement. As a profession, and as individual professionals, we cannot ‘self-actualise’ until we have satisfied the more fundamental needs of our roles. 

As a professional collective, we need to get a lot better at collaborating as individuals, and as a profession, to ensure that the ‘physiological’ and ‘safety’ needs are met, which in our scenario is the basics such as spend analysis, market knowledge, proficiency at transacting procurement processes (particularly the regulated public sector processes).

With that foundation satisfied, we can move on to the ‘Love & Belonging’ and ‘Esteem’ needs, which for us is where many of us still struggle. Being invited to the top table at our organisations as true business partners remains a consistent challenge. 

At this level, we need to be more proactive in demonstrating and promoting contract management and supplier relationship management achievements, not just (but also) procurement process cost savings and force our way in to the strategic conversations. 

From this point we can dream of ‘self-actualisation’.  All contract spend is compliant and being managed well.  Our deep market knowledge is maintained, valued and collaborated on with peers and suppliers alike.  We are highly valued by our executives, and the ‘go-to’ people for business advice and guidance. 

Many of us can only dream of that utopia, and unless we work together on the basics, it will only remain a dream and no amount of retweets will improve our futures.

There’s still time to register for Big Ideas 2016. Visit, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.