Public Sector Procurement in the UK and US: Welcoming Peter Smith’s Voice

Even though I've typically tried to stay as far away from government as I can throughout my personal and professional life, I find myself increasingly being drawn to study and report on it. And perhaps one day, I may even contribute directly, leveraging what I know about driving savings through better procurement and supply chain processes in the private sector to save tax payers money. In fact, one of my good friends in Chicago who will go unnamed -- but is a superstar in his field and very connected politically -- has already started to talk about his plans to run for Governor of our wretchedly managed state in the race after next. I believe him. I also told him I'd be his right hand man for $1 per year to drive sourcing programs and supplier reviews state-wide, hopefully by that point having slightly reduced my contribution to Spend Matters to allow for more time actually doing than thinking.

But in the meantime, I'd like to welcome my Spend Matters UK/Europe counterpart, Peter Smith, back to the Spend Matters mother ship to tackle the issue of public sector procurement. In a series of four posts that will begin later today, Peter will take a comparative look at UK and US public sector procurement practices. I've asked him to offer a candid take on how he believes each country currently stacks up with an emphasis on what the UK appears to be doing right. But of course Peter will also take a critical eye to what his former civil servant colleagues are up to.

As work piles up in the New Year, Peter graciously volunteered to put pen to paper on this topic for me, and for this I am grateful and have told him the next pint in London in February is on my P&L, not his (in the US, if we were in the public sector on the Federal level, we'd legally have to pick up our own tabs, mind you). As you read his commentary, you'll notice how much easier it is for innovative technology companies to break into the UK government relative to the US. Perhaps its just my own experience and observation (I've only worked on a single public sector technology selection/analysis in recent years), but I'd argue that upstart solution providers, which very well may have the best tools for the job, are at a significant disadvantage in the US unless they know all the tricks of the trade in working the system through contacts and partners. And even then, the big guys maintain a large advantage, as do public sector specialists that often have tools that stack up poorly relative to what private sector organizations use across the source-to-pay lifecycle.

In any event, do let me us know what you think about this look into public sector practices. I have a suspicion this will become a more frequent focus for us in one forum or another later this year.

Jason Busch

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