New Zealand Defence Procurement Update: SRM and Cat Man in Focus

At the CIPS Fellows meeting last week, I bumped into three old friends and fine procurement people – Jason Waterman, who I worked with on the OGC Procurement Capability Reviews years ago, and David Gigg, who I also worked with in OGC and even further back in the DSS (in fact, David was in part responsible for my initial move into the public sector, so he has a lot to answer for …!)

Both are working in Crown Commercial Service now on policy issues including social value, and they’d brought along Paul Howard, another old friend who now is Commercial Director for the New Zealand Defence Force (see here for more on his move).

I managed to grab an hour with him on Friday at Paddington for a quick half before he headed back to the airport and his long flight back to NZ.  He had a good week of meetings with various organisations and people, the UK Ministry of Defence obviously being high on his list.

There is clearly a good level of co-operation going on, with discussion of major suppliers that are common to both the UK and NZ forces. That’s vital – while of course Howard didn’t tell me anything he shouldn’t, I suspect recent speculation over Babcock would be of interest to both. (Babcock runs New Zealand’s biggest ship repair and marine engineering facility).  He made the point that if an international firm is doing well in one country, they might focus less on another – or indeed vice versa – so international co-operation and supplier intelligence sharing between procurement leaders is useful.

That led on to an interesting discussion about both category management and SRM – Howard was looking at the Cabinet Office work here with State of Flux on SRM as a possible model for NZ. In terms of CatMan, he has re-focused and structured his team somewhat – “we found that category managers were getting too isolated from the internal user / customer base”.  Clearly, category strategies can’t be done in isolation, and I suggested he might like to look at Future Purchasing’s last survey and report for more on that topic.

On the positive side, Howard feels that military procurement in NZ is agile and pretty responsive – he has obviously built good relationships with the top people on the operational side of the military, which is essential. And NZ is becoming quite a hotbed of tech innovation, so he is keen to see how the public sector can encourage and take advantage of start-ups in various sectors. He talked for instance about a small firm that specialises in bringing old software up to date. They make it more reliable and usable but do so without ripping it out and putting in totally new software, which might bring issues of integration, for instance.

His recruitment drive which we publicised in a previous article bore fruit – a couple of senior level recruits have joined him from the UK, Phil Havelock who had worked for the Foreign Office and Tami Gilles, ex Head of Procurement for Edinburgh council.  But it is getting somewhat tougher to get visas for people, although “MCIPS is still on the long-term skills shortage list”.

I asked whether he and his family had any thoughts about coming “home”? No, not really. NZ is just about to have its first “well-being budget”, with the government focused on the overall well-being of the nation, and he finds there is a real community spirit in the country – “the Maori word for family is whānau and that concept really means something in NZ”.  There is also a healthy economy, so generally, that must all contrast starkly with the chaos politically in the UK at the moment.

Howard was a real loss to UK public sector procurement, but it’s good to see him thriving on the other side of the world, even if we don’t get to see him very often. It doesn’t look like even music can tempt him back here - he does miss the wealth of indie music available in London or Manchester, but “I’ve been to see a Joy Division tribute band in Wellington”!


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