Exclusive! Malcom Harrison – the Next CIPS CEO Speaks (Part 1)

Following the news that Malcolm Harrison is to leave his post as chief executive of the government central procurement organisation, Crown Commercial Service (CCS), to carry out the same role for the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), I caught up with him for a brief telephone conversation last week.

It’s been a pretty lengthy recruitment process; it is almost exactly a year since previous CIPS CEO David Noble so tragically passed away, and ex-CIPS President Gerry Walsh has been admirably filling the CEO shoes on an interim basis since April last year.

Harrison explained (understandably) that he didn’t want to talk at this stage about CCS issues – we will save that for the future, perhaps after he makes the move at the end of July. He also wanted to stress that his focus is very much on his current role in CCS until then – “it is getting my full attention”, he emphasised, as he aims to make sure CCS is “commercial, effective and efficient”.

So I started by asking him if he had applied for the CIPS role when it was publicly advertised, or whether he was “headhunted”?

“It happened through the search route initially”, he said, but he also stressed how rigourous the process had been – “once I applied, it was probably the toughest recruitment I have been through in my career”.

Harrison then explained what made him decide to go for it.

“I didn't immediately consider the role, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised just what an interesting and exciting opportunity it is. For example, I thought it would give me the opportunity to apply my knowledge of both private sector and public procurement. Both are very important but there aren't many roles where you can combine both sets of experience”.

Was there also an attraction in the fact that it is very much a Chief Executive role - but also obviously plays to Harrison's procurement origins, way back in our days together at Mars Confectionery? (The advertisement for the CIPS role as far as I remember stressed the need for CEO experience.)

“Yes, absolutely. I did my first general management role back in the late 90s at Bass Brewers, running an operational business for three years. I really felt when I went back to being a CPO with Interbrew and then Nestlé, that the line experience gave me more credibility and just made me a better procurement person generally. I understood that wider business view which is so important for procurement professionals”.

It seems to us that it is very good news for CIPS and the profession that we have someone who is very much both “one of our own” and has more chief executive experience than any CIPS leader has had before.  From that point of view, it could well turn out to be an inspired choice, although only time will tell.

And in part two of our interview tomorrow, we’ll quiz Harrison on the global aspects of CIPS, and get his views (at least some initial and high-level thoughts) on where the Institute can add most value for its members.

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