David Shields Is Back … Bloom Bags Public Procurement Big-Hitter

We met up for the first time in several years with David Shields last week.

Earlier this decade, he was the Managing Director of Government Procurement Service, the collaborative buying organisation in central government that was the forerunner to Crown Commercial Services.

The assumption was that when he left in 2013, Shields disagreed with the direction that Bill Crothers  wanted to take the organisation (the much more centralised approach, taking on all sorts of commercial work from departments). History would appear to have proved him correct, as Malcolm Harrison has spent two years trying to get CCS back to where Shields left it …

As we reported a couple of weeks back, he has joined Bloom Procurement Services (a sponsor of Spend Matters) as Group Chief Executive, with Ian Savage becoming Group CFO.  Bloom operates the NEPO vendor neutral professional services framework, managing the provision of consulting and related services into hundreds of public bodies, including many local authorities as well as hospitals, emergency services and education bodies.

Shields is going to be looking at extending that reach as well as working with the supply side to get more providers signed up to Bloom, which must be the biggest marketplace in the UK for consulting providers in terms of buyers, real work and revenue flowing through. So we asked David a few questions …

Welcome home David – but why have you come home now after more than two years in the States?  And what have you been up to?

I’ve been working to help bring category management into the US Federal government really, with various bodies such as the GSA and Office of Budget and Management. I’ve helped to set up the programme, define KPIs, targets, look at skills. It has been fascinating, with frustrations as in any public sector procurement change programme, but it seemed like a good time to come home. My family stayed in the UK, so 2 years plus is long enough I feel.

I have to ask - what impact has President Trump had on US public procurement generally?

Actually, the CatMan programme has been maintained into the new administration – it is to the credit of senior government officials and key stakeholders that the momentum was retained.

So, what attracted you to Bloom?

I’ve known the founder, Adam  Jacobs, for many years and he was in Washington DC a few months ago. We started talking – the Bloom model is innovative, there’s nothing else like it in the public sector. That combination of technology, process and capability to improve delivery interests me. I believe there is not enough e-enablement in the space – I looked at the Bloom platform, liked it, but started making some suggestions for improvement –Adam said “we  better have a chat” and it went from there!

The focus on being outcome-oriented in consulting assignments which Bloom drives is really important – it is about doing the right thing and having that end-to-end approach to delivery of professional services. I liked the fact that it isn’t “just” a sourcing tool – it’s got all the components that help drive value and transparency.

And why did they like you – other than you telling them how to make their product better?!   

Well, I think my experience is aligned with what is needed here, and we definitely share the same ethos and desire to support the public sector and public procurement and play our part in helping deliver better public services. This really matter to me personally.

Any thoughts on how UK public procurement has changed since you’ve been away?

One obvious development is the emergence of social value in public procurement as a major challenge and opportunity – I’ve been looking at really interesting and fantastic work that people like Darren Knowd in Durham, NEPO generally, and others have been doing.  Making it more evidence-based and driving the right behaviours are key, so I’m looking forward to contributing in that area.

Crown Commercial Service is clearly trying to go after more wider public sector business, which might mean they will become more obviously competitive to regional buying organisations like NEPO. Any thoughts on that?

I think I’ll leave that one for now! OK - let’s just say I have always thought that CCS should be driven by doing the right thing for the taxpayer and the public sector as a whole. I still know many of the team at CCS and they work diligently to make a positive impact. Given the scale and resources of CCS they can have a very positive effect by working collaboratively with wider public sector organisations, but they need to be both consistent and transparent in what the strategy is and what they are seeking to achieve.

 

Thanks to David – he is an interesting hire for Bloom, and he clearly still has the vision, enormous energy and drive, allied to top class operational management skills, that we saw back in his previous public sector days here. So it will be fascinating to see where he takes Bloom in the next couple of years.

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