Jim Carter Joins Cabinet Office from Network Rail

Good news for the UK Cabinet Office in their public procurement improvement role. Jim Carter is joining the Chief Commercial Officer Gareth Williams’ team, in a job that will see him working to help improve the commercial capability of central government - and maybe extend that more widely in time, we wonder? That is linked to the development of the Government Commercial Function and Organisation (see here for more on those structures).

Carter is joining Cabinet Office from Network Rail, where he has latterly been Commercial Director, having worked his way up through several promotions in the procurement area. “I’m delighted to be joining the team and am very excited about contributing to this inspiring and ambitious programme of commercial improvement” he told us last week and we hope to talk to him in more depth once he’s settled in.

He has been at Network Rail for ten years and was at Cable and Wireless before that. If I had guessed, I would have put him down as an engineer or similar by training, based on the logical and structured approach that he shows – but I see from LinkedIn that his degree was in English Literature. Which just goes to show, you shouldn’t typecast!

He was also named Procurement Professional of the Year at the 2013 CIPS SM Awards. His citation called him a “passionate and compelling advocate of the benefits of strategic procurement” and said that in less than a year he “has driven a 30 per cent improvement in productivity while beating a cost savings target by 27 per cent”.

I remember his keynote address at the eWorld event a few years ago, when he talked (amongst other topics) of the way he had introduced a very structured process for planning, workload management and reporting within his procurement function at Network Rail. (I guess that might be linked to the improvements mentioned above). It was one of those moments when you sit there listening, feeling impressed but also thinking “why didn’t I do that when I was a CPO”?!

While we’re not drinking buddies or anything, I’ve had a reasonable amount of contact with him over recent years and have been consistently impressed with his abilities: a combination of procurement and commercial expertise, a common-sense approach and communication skills that I imagine help him go down well with stakeholders. So we’re also impressed that Cabinet Office has managed to tempt him away from such a big job in Network Rail.

Gareth Williams has set a target - “I’m unapologetic in stating my goal as making the Government Commercial Function the best commercial function in the UK”, he said recently. That is a tough goal, given the sheer size, complexity and range of issues procurement and commercial staff and functions face in the sector. But a few more recruits like Carter and Cabinet Office might be happily ticking off that goal on their scorecard in a few years’ time.

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