Highlights from Procurex – IACCM & CCS Shine

Last Thursday we went along to Procurex South, held in conjunction with the Infrastructure Show at London’s Olympia exhibition centre.

We gave some brief comments on it last Friday, but today we’ll dig into it further – and we will have two or three further articles later looking at specific sessions from the day.

The keynote sessions were introduced by Graham Steed from organisers BiP Solutions, then Peter Lawson (pictured here) from Crown Commercial Services kicked off. He is one of the new senior team recruited by Malcolm Harrison, and his background is largely private sector – he did look a little stumped by a technical question on “dynamic purchasing systems” but despite that and a few technical issues we suspect he came across well to the audience.

The CCS focus is on “delivering outstanding commercial value underpinned with great customer service” and bringing deep category expertise to bear is key. CCS is also pushing collaboration – yet as Lawson pointed out, there are barriers in that government departments are intrinsically designed to not work together.

Then another old friend of ours, Philip Orumwense from DWP’s commercial top team, gave us a rapid but impressive run through the subject matter of the doctorate he is just about finished at Aston University. He is considering transactional and relational sources of procurement value, and is relating that to current government procurement approaches. Transactional means short, formal contracts, with specific duties, clear expectations, penalties etc. It is based largely on opportunism – but can lead to increased transaction costs for both parties. Government procurement is largely transactional.

Relational is where we get into shared values, trust, co-operation, flexible, information exchange, and his thesis is that combining the two can and should bring the most value to government. It is impressive stuff and we hope to come back to this in more detail - it looks like Orumwense has got some findings and ideas here that could be important and relevant for public procurement. 

Then Eddie Regan from the training side of BiP gave us some thoughts on Brexit and its impact on public procurement, and some of the ideas that he has picked up from various sources around how we might re-write public procurement rules once the UK is free of the Commission regulations. I asked whether these ideas added up to a “charter for corruption” as many of them seem to be in effect “just let me do whatever I want”, but there was plenty of food for thought there and I suspect we could have discussed the topics for some hours! This was also a useful presentation for me because I am talking on a similar subject at the London and Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC and SUPC) conference in late May. I promise I will have some original material though at that event ...

It was interesting to see one strand of workshops (six in all) delivered by IACCM, the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management, including some delivered by Tim Cummins, the top man himself. IACCM has made major inroads into the public sector in recent years in terms of training and advice, really competing with CIPS in some areas. Their commitment to this event was impressive and the session we heard from Cummins deserves a further article. 

Another major source of content at the event was CCS itself, who ran a workshop strand and had a huge central exhibition stand (sadly lacking in nice chocolates though). We will come back to their session on social value, which was interesting and reflects that CCS is for the first time really looking to drive good outcomes through linking their contracts and frameworks more clearly to social value provisions. Another old friend, David Gigg, is now leading that work along with Francesca Livesey. David has been around government for many years and knows how to make things happen in a positive manner so we expect good things here.

Their strong presence at the event and work on social value reflects a desire for CCS to engage more seriously with the wider public sector.  However, we also observed plenty of interest in the exhibition stands run by other consortia and buying organisations; LUPC, the London Procurement Partnership (health), and LHC. We haven’t come across that organisation previously, but they are a 30 staff-strong buying consortium for the social housing market, and seem to be doing good work in that sector.

So a good event all in all, and more highlights from it to come.

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