Myth Busting at Capita

If you’ve not spent any time with Kieran Sullivan, then you should. Kieran works for Capita Procurement Solutions (CPS), a procurement business of Capita PLC, and has done for the past 5 years as their Client Services Director. More on his remit to come.

First and foremost Kieran is a thoroughly good chap – in my experience he’s the kind of person who is interested in people, supportive of his team, personally and professionally, and is out to do the right thing by them, CPS’ customers and CPS itself. Having renewed my acquaintance with Kieran whilst at ProcureCon Indirect in Copenhagen in early April, we’d arranged to meet up back in the UK as I was intrigued by CPS’ position in the procurement services market, having known them over many years as a potential customer for P2P technology many moons back, to Capita being a customer of non procurement services in a previous role. Like many people in the UK, I have drawn my own conclusions: Capita + Procurement = Public Sector transactional procurement outsourcing. Capita + Procurement certainly did not equal strategic services for short-term as well as long-term services.

My objective for meeting Kieran was to understand more about CPS services today, to put them into my own filing system of strategic or transactional (and outsourced) services.

No surprises when I was told that the predominant and core market for CPS services was the UK. They have 200 team members delivering services for their customers, with support service locations in London, Southampton, Krakow, South Africa and India. There’s a tech partnership with Ivalua but they work across many source-to-pay platforms with their customers. What surprised me somewhat was learning that 50 percent of their customer base comes from the private sector; companies like Lloyds of London and BDR Thermea.

What’s a typical client engagement duration? I asked. “Anything from 2 weeks to 3 years is the norm for us.” Kieran returns swiftly. “We will support organisations on a specific challenge they have today to large transformation projects. We’ll provide our marketing expertise to a media company for a short project to having 25 of our team members support delivery of a long-term commercial transformation project. We’re geared up for both in terms of expertise and expectation. Our aim is to help our customers deliver value, no matter the project duration.”

I quizzed him on what may have changed within CPS in recent years. “We’re much more focused on value-based delivery and our team skillset now. 70 percent of our team originates from the private sector; we’re bringing in team members with backgrounds in consulting as well as category expertise. We’re also placing emphasis on upskilling internally so that we can be as effective and efficient with our customers and retain people who feel motivated and invested in.” That blend and cross skilling of talent within the team, affirms Kieran, enables them to take a pragmatic approach, whilst embracing an entrepreneurial mindset.

Kieran is obviously delighted with the performance of the team. “They take pride in their role, have great job satisfaction and are loyalty to CPS and their customers. We manage £20 billion of customer spend: we know what ‘good’ looks like.”

CPS have an armoury of products and services under the procurement banner, but one Kieran is particularly proud of is their Tail Spend Management. “We’ve been talking about and working on tail spend, years before it became a hot topic. We have a great service around tail spend management, which may not sound so attractive, but it amazes us how much value there is in tail spend.”

One of their guiding mantras is to deliver value in low-value spend. We took the tail spend scenario. Tail spend often doesn’t come with associated contracts with suppliers, hence it becomes unmanaged, unclassified, and maverick. CPS ensure all spend gets a contract associated to it, linked to spend categories so it can be managed more meaningfully. “This kind of work can consume a client category manager but if we take it, clean it up and ensure it’s managed appropriately, the value that it creates in making that skilled category manager more effective in what they’re great at, is astonishing.” States Kieran. It has also meant Contract Lifecycle Management has gained huge traction within CPS and has become a growing area of business for them.

What strikes me as we continue to chat is the seemingly honest approach of CPS with their customers. Prompted by a question I pose on the initial sales engagement, off the bat, Kieran tells me that he isn’t afraid to tell a customer, “Actually, you need to do this yourselves.” If the customer doesn’t have the skillsets internally to do the job, we’re not afraid to share our knowledge, train up the customer’s team member(s), hand over and get out as soon as we can. “It’s important to us that we’re as transparent as we can be with our customers.”

So should businesses be considering CPS when going through a procurement transformation or project? “Absolutely they should” insists Kieran. “In fact, we’re having many organisations come to us rather that us going out to them, private sector as much as public sector. That’s down to our competitiveness, range of skillsets and people.”

I don’t see CPS in the sales cycles for procurement transformation and strategic procurement programmes the same amount as I see other firms I could mention, but when you’re an organisation as large as Capita, it can sometimes be more difficult to identify yourselves as having an expert functional practise, rather than be all things to all people. However, seeing Capita at ProcureCon, having a private sector client, Lloyds of London, vouch for their delivery capability in their speaking slot, knowing they will make their presence known at the World Procurement Congress in London in May, and at ProcureCon, Europe in Barcelona in October, I’ve no doubt they will make their presence felt more and more.

One key reassurance I’d have is Kieran himself; his role is to sell the projects and he is ultimately accountable for the delivery of those projects. “There’s no passing the buck; you sell it and you deliver according to expectations. That’s what the customer expects, what I expect, and the team expects of each other.” Talk of bunker mentality, ‘in it together as a team’ gets Kieran animated. His pride in his team and focus on delivering value for his customers has clearly enabled him to forge strong links with them. “Clients buy people. We’ve developed a team here which is loyal and driven by customer value. Our customers appreciate that working partnership and we’ve built up a loyal base over the years.” Perhaps it’s time to shout about it a bit more!

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