Malcolm Harrison – Confirmed As Chief Executive Of Crown Commercial Service

The news that Malcom Harrison has taken the role of Chief Executive at the UK government’s Crown Commercial Service on a permanent basis will not be a surprise to most observers. He took over as the interim head in March after Sally Collier departed to run Ofqual (we hear she is enjoying that and doing fine), and after he had spent a few months in the organisation as an interim, developing the revised “operating model”.

We wrote in some detail about him here, so we won’t repeat all of that again, other than to say he has done very significant procurement roles (CPO of Nestle, for instance), and worked in a genuine CEO capacity as well. The CCS job is unusual in that it is a real CEO role, but certainly you feel that deep procurement experience is almost essential too.

We did say this when we wrote about him in March.

But I suspect he might still want to do another major, international private sector role, so my feeling is that there is no guarantee he will stay beyond the six-month interim period. On the other hand, this is a fascinating role, so he may fall in love with the quaint public sector way of doing procurement, who knows!

I’m not sure he has fallen in love with the public sector, but he seems to have been attracted to the size and scope of the challenge. And many of us who worked or still work in the public sector have enjoyed that aspect of “public good” in the job, as well as being close to the machinations of politics and power. More fun in some ways certainly than buying packaging or milk power for a chocolate firm!

Of course, Harrison’s gap on the cv is the lack of previous public sector experience. Now certain politicians have sometimes seen that as a positive in the individuals recruited into top public sector roles; but Harrison does not strike us as one of those who thinks the private sector always has the answers and is somehow “better” than the public. He is more considered and thoughtful than that, and we get the feeling that his style and goal is to respect the regulatory environment whilst delivering real commercial improvement and benefits. Others (like previous Minister Francis Maude) always gave the impression that they would like to ignore the regulations given half a chance.

So Harrison’s priorities include getting this new “operating model” in place, and in particular defining exactly how CCS interacts with the departments; who does what, in simplistic terms. Then there is a challenging but opportunity-heavy technology agenda; and of course the recruitment of a new top team of category experts, which must be well underway now. Those are key appointments, and indeed getting the right people may be the single most important factor that will determine how successful Harrison’s reign will be. His interaction with Gareth Rhys Williams and the new Government Commercial Organisation model will be another interesting aspect of the role.

We can’t think of a better way to finish than with the same words we used in our previous article; as a taxpayer, an interested observer and a fellow (ex) Martian, I wish him all the very best.

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