Government Procurement Service part 3 – people and relationships

We had a couple of negative comments on our first posts - here and here - relating to our recent visit to Government Procurement Service (GPS) in Liverpool. Perhaps that’s not surprising – as we said last time, the more successful GPS are, the more critical they will become to suppliers' success. And the disillusioned or disappointed suppliers are therefore more likely than in the past to complain, challenge or criticise.

And on the staff side, it has undoubtedly been a challenging last year or so, and perhaps in some ways it is getting even tougher. There was the initial excitement of the new Government, the change from OGC Buying Solutions to GPS, a new Chief Executive. Then the re-location, and while losing colleagues is rarely fun, the pace of change probably drove some adrenalin and excitement within the organisation.

But now, those major changes are done, the organisation is doing more with fewer staff, and there is an expectation of performance and working at a faster pace than previously. I suspect not everyone is comfortable with that. So David Shields, the Chief Executive, and his senior team will need to keep motivation levels up as they settle into a more “business as usual” modus operandi.

However, numbers are beginning to rise again as GPS takes on some additional areas of work. They’re building a media category management team – with the demise of the Central Office of Information, they’re starting from scratch here.  I wondered whether some COI folk might have transferred but that doesn’t seem to be the case. More work is coming also into the “spot buying” team, who are running multiple smaller tenders on a very accelerated basis, and management of the Fujitsu Flex contract is also transferring to GPS.

At senior levels, most of the organisation is now in place and bedding down. I was surprised to hear that Stephen Guy, whose appointment to the Head of Sourcing role was announced months ago, and will clearly fill a key role, still hasn’t started work. Apparently his previous boss, Sir Philip Green at Arcadia, is making him work his full six months’ notice.  (I think “no comment” would be wise here...)

In terms of working with wider stakeholder groups, Shields feels that the relationship with the IT areas within Cabinet Office is particularly strong, and the recent Cloud Store framework is a good example of this joint delivery. And in general, relationships with the regional buying organisations are good, vindicating Shields positioning from the beginning that, as he put it, “GPS wasn’t going to compete with the Pro 5” (the leading collaborative organisations in local government land).

Relationships with ESPO and YPO are very strong, there’s been collaboration with NEPO on energy; the CBC group is somewhat more challenging because they are themselves in effect a collection of disparate organisations. But in general collaborative work is going well, and the GPS footprint is increasing in the wider public sector with the blessing of the Pro 5.

So, let's sum up after our three articles. It’s still a challenging time for GPS and there are some high profile contracts to let and savings to deliver. Not everyone is going to be happy with everything  they do; but I can only say, based on what I've seen and heard, that I’m impressed with their progress, the way they’re going about their work, and their focus on delivering value to the taxpayer.

And a final plug - if you don't know Liverpool, you really should - it is such a great place for the Arts, restaurants, pubs, perfect for a City Break or similar. Of course it is also one of the world's great musical cities, which gives me a chance to feature this as a Friday treat - one of the best songs in the history of rock music from a Liverpool band (but probably not the one you're expecting....)

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Voices (8)

  1. David Atkinson:

    ‘Story of the Blues’ – has to be the brilliant 12″ extended version. Awesome.

  2. John Jones:

    Gents, cool down, ’tis only a commercial.

    So, for me, as a 25 year old in 1984… has to be Seven Seas…or if you really want another liverpool band…a bit before…..try Story of The Blues…Mighty Wah!…:-)

  3. Plan Bee:


    You are normally such an impartial judge, I was so dissapointed that you’ve been sucked into all the hype in this particular article

    Ian McCulloch he of the bunnymen, whilst performning at Latitiude last year, himself proclaimed ‘Killing Moon’ as the best song ever written. So much for humility and I’d hate to think he’s affected your impartiallity

    A nice little tune sure, but really the best song ever? Doesnt even make top 100 in my view

  4. David Atkinson:

    Nothing beats the opening salvo of ‘Show of Strength’, ‘With a Hip’ and ‘Over the Wall’.

  5. David Orr:

    Hate to rain on the parade, but the Cabinet Office MoU for Cloud IT is with IBM and they have a serial record of expensive failure: ASDA< Boots, DVLA, DEFRA, Southwest One in Somerset etc.

    Bonus-driven sales-led leopards do not change their spots.

    If the CEO of GPS thinks that Cabinet IT is a high spot, then what has actually been delivered in terms of actual infrastructure, lower costs & savings?

    Computer Weekly wrote about IBM & G-Cloud:

    I asked an FOI question to have a look at the Cabinet Office MoU with IBM and was refused via a wall of secrecy & unnecessary confidentiality refusals:

    If these contracts cannot be examined at a high level (only genuinely margin sensitive data should be withheld) then sucess is declared by the Deal Makers and Contrcator in usual PR spin and there is no proper scrutiny.

    Challenge Spend Matters and GPS to show tangible results form the Cabinet MoU with IBM and publish actual costs v real/cashable savings to date.

    Are you mistaking activity for results?

  6. Christine Morton:

    Good luck to Shields & Co.!

    Also I think “Lips Like Sugar” is infinitely better than “Killing Moon.” Just sayin’.

  7. Paul Smith:

    Good article Peter.
    I can certainly verify that relationships between GPS and YPO are very strong which is encouraging and a clear change from the past.
    Greater effective collaboration can only mean one thing – better deals for the public sector and therefore for the taxpayer.
    Paul Smith – Procurement and Supply Chain Director – YPO

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