Nigel Clifford – putting Procserve eMarketplaces at the heart of government procurement

Procserve runs the UK Government’s eMarketplace, a key part of the Government Procurement Service (GPS)  e-enablement vision, along with the BravoSolution spend analytics and Emptoris sourcing platforms.

In recent times, the functionality of the marketplace has increased, so not only is it a repository of contract information and catalogues, but GPS is using it to run mini-competitions and low value tenders between firms registered on the system.

Procserve was very much a creature of government. Zanzibar, the original government eProcurement solution, was developed by the Office of Government Commerce and PA Consulting. When it was spun off into a self-standing entity, Procserve was formed as an independent company but with PA retaining a major equity holding. GPS will shortly be running a re-competition for the provision of the marketplace service – one would have thought Procserve will be in pole position to win that, as the incumbent who in effect designed much of the current solution. But you never know.

Nigel Clifford

So it will be a critical few months for the firm, which is why so much rests on the shoulders of Nigel Clifford, who recently joined as CEO. I met him over the summer for a chat and a cup of tea. He’s one of those people who is visibly competent without being arrogant, and highly personable without seeming insincere or overly “sales-y”. Whilst of course I kept up my ruthless journalistic-style interrogation, I must admit I liked him, and was impressed.

He’s also another example of someone who started in procurement and moved on through into general management – so a role model for the profession (perhaps CIPS can get him involved in some promotional work?) He’s actually had a fascinating career,  starting with BT in procurement then moving through product management into marketing and general management. After ten years there, he did a stint as a (very young) General Manager for an NHS Hospital Trust in Scotland, before coming back into Telecoms and software world with Cable & Wireless, Symbian, Nokia and latterly as Chief Executive of Micro Focus.

It’s obvious that, if he’s not exactly slumming it, he’s clearly capable of running a much bigger firm than this one. So why Procserve?

“I just thought it was a very interesting business, at an important stage of development”, he says. So apart from the critical aim of winning the GPS re-competition, which has to be top of his agenda, he’s got a few key priorities.

He sees the firm staying with eMarketplaces as the heart of the business, but wants to develop the sort of transactions clients can do through the system, therefore increasing volume and value through the network. There’s a strong intent to move “beyond procurement” into wider finance and supply chain capabilities such as payments. “We’ve got some interesting work on ePayments in hand, including developments with MasterCard”, he explains.  (We may come back to that as it develops,  as it sounds interesting...)

His second goal is to build the customer base. It’s still heavily public sector, and will probably continue with that focus in the main, but “we need to be more nimble”, Clifford says, and he’s looking at how to increase coverage in the wider public sector. With strengths in GPS, with the Welsh eMarketplace and now the National Police Procurement Hub (NPPH) e-marketplace, there’s a good base, but plenty of further opportunities.

Indeed, the Police sector is a good example of potential growth. The Met Police have recently become the 12th force to use the marketplace, not bad for something only launched in spring 2012, but that still leaves another 31 forces to go. “It’s not just about simplifying transactions – the more Forces participate, the more we can do to get more commonality into specifications, for instance”.

I’m sure Clifford will go down well with senior stakeholders around the current and potential client base, and clearly has the experience and ability to grow the business significantly. Winning the GPS competition is obviously vital; but if they can do that, his appointment suggests there will be interesting times ahead for Procserve.


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Voices (3)

  1. John Hatton:

    Good luck Nigel and Procserve, in the re-tender.

  2. Bob Beveridge:

    Very interesting article about Procserve and I can confirm that he is an impressive manager with whom I worked at C&W. e-procurement systems seem to be sprouting up all over the place. Could you please explain to your readers how, or indeed if, Procserve differs from Peto, the eprocurement hub being developed for the NHS.

    1. Sam Unkim:

      Zanzibar Launched in February 2006, & consists of: a eMarketplace; a Purchase-to-Pay system; a Supplier Database; a Transaction Exchange; a Data Warehouse and a Government-to-Business portal.

      So its hardly a “recent sprout”. More a huge bean-stalk roooted firmly in all public sector purchasing including non-clinical NHS

      It’s going to be interesting to see what Peto is going to evolve into, but it seems agile and its staff innovative enough, to shoulder it’s way into a market niche

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