More from Nigel Smith’s speech at last week’s Amex event

We reported on Nigel Smith's (ex CEO of the Office of Government Commerce) comments about Sir Philip Green's report on UK Government procurement here.  At the American Express event last week, Nigel went on to describe what he felt public procurement people needed to be doing in the current climate of cost-cutting.

He emphasised the need for procurement people to get on the front foot and accept the need for change and greater collaboration:

"Only by embracing it can we make the case for change - fewer higher skilled professionals spending their time on innovating new service delivery models for those things in an organisation which are strategically important - it is not important to a museum how it buys its energy".

He wants procurement to be the owners of spend data in their organisations. In fact, during the Q & A session, he went further and suggested he would  fire any procurement head who didn't know where their organisation's spend was going - and not just some months after year end, but in real time or pretty close to it! That's a strong view, but technology has moved on so much in this area, there really is little excuse why this can't be done.  As Nigel said:

Position your function as the owner of all third party spend - make demand management your job - make financial reconciliation and supplier management central to what you do.

He also stressed that there was a key role for procurement in helping to manage external perceptions.  The public might just about accept the 'cuts' if they feel they are being applied fairly; but if they see suppliers (for instance) profiting from public sector spend unfairly or excessively, they will not be happy.  A key part of our role is to make sure the public see that money is being spent carefully and wisely with suppliers.

He finished with a warning; some suppliers will not survive the reduction in government business that is to come.  "Be aware of that and consider the risks amongst your own supply base" was his parting message!

Nigel intends to pursue a portfolio career now, and I suspect he won't be short of offers; but given the evidence of last week, it would be a shame if his knowledge and thinking about where public sector procurement needs to go were to disappear totally back to industry.  Or perhaps he will make a Gershon-like comeback in a few years' time!

Finally, just a reminder; anyone who wants a copy of my White Paper, which covers some ideas as to how procurement can achieve 'more with less' over the months and years to come, please drop Ben McKee at Amex an email:  Ben.E.McKee@aexp.com

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