Procurement Week Day 2 – and a Fascinating Story from New Zealand Public Procurement

Last week we attended day 2 of Procurement Week at The Crystal in London (great views of The Emirates Air Line cable car link across the Thames), hosted by The Institute for Competition and Procurement Studies, Bangor University (and largely sponsored by the ESRC). It is a three-day event with an international flavour, which explores topics of interest to Public Procurement, like Public Tendering, Business Development, Procurement Law and International Trade. The three days are packed with short (20 minute) presentations (excepting the keynotes) so you get through a lot of subject matter quickly and you definitely don't get bored! Day 2's theme was 'Procuring a Connected Living: The Internet of Things.'

For anyone who could not attend, here is an overview of the day, with an interesting story of public sector innovation and supplier engagement thrown in:

… We always notice at Procurement Week the wide range of delegates it attracts from many nations around the globe, this year was no exception, with representatives from as far as New Zealand, through Nigeria and the Netherlands. Do people really fly all the way from New Zealand to attend Procurement Week? Yes they do – and we caught up with someone who had done just that.

Fleur D’Souza of New Zealand Government Procurement, had a great story to tell, a tale which is not least a plug for Procurement Week itself, but an account of innovation and best practice that will be of interest to public procurers anywhere.

Fleur explained to us how the Collaborative Procurement (Banking) Team with New Zealand Government Procurement led a large “All-of-Government” (ie the whole of the public sector) banking services procurement to gain optimal terms and conditions, to consider service levels in a more strategic manner, and to significantly lower pricing. It was a mammoth and complex project which included over 200 agencies and 2,500 schools in New Zealand banking services. The project involved the re-tendering of a contract that had not been to market for over 25 years, so gathering the data on which to base an RFP was challenging to say the least. 30 evaluators, 3 months of evaluations and 9 months of negotiations later, 15 contracts with 6 suppliers for terms of up to 8 years were established with NZ$ 120 million estimated savings over the term, positively impacting hundreds of government agencies, tax payers and beneficiaries.

During the RFP they took an innovative approach to engaging with agencies and suppliers. All suppliers were invited to post RFP release meetings, aptly called ‘speed dating,’ where they sat down with agency representatives; they each had 15 minutes to ask 3 questions. A stopwatch was even used to ensure exact timings and equal opportunity for every supplier – it was that strictly conducted. This was an opportunity the suppliers found invaluable, to have face-to-face time with the agencies, some of whom, after 25 years, they had never actually met. It helped them tremendously in how they put together their bids and gave NZ Procurement better responses. It was so beneficial, that it is now a process that has been taken up for other NZ Government categories.

In short – the organisation was nominated for, and won, the EY Procurement Excellence Awards, not only as ‘best team’ but as ‘supreme overall’ winner of all the eligible categories from participants across both the public and private sectors. Quite an achievement! And what was their prize? A paid trip to any procurement conference, anywhere in the world! They chose Procurement Week because, as Fleur says, “it is a rare opportunity to attend a conference that is packed full with a fascinating mix, breadth and depth of procurement-related topics appropriate to a forward-thinking public sector body.”

So there you have it - if ever there was a good reason to attend a conference ...

We have to say that the calibre of every speaker was impressive, and with so many good sessions in a day, it's not possible to relate all that we learnt here, however, we can give you a flavour of the key discussions, engagingly introduced by Gary Clifford, ICPS director, and chaired by the eminent Dermot Cahill, which you will soon be able to listen to on-demand:

  • The Robots ARE coming - some are already here. In 10 years' time everything will be connected, but what does IoT really mean? - the interworking of all devices? And how will that affect what we will be buying, and how we will buy it? Job displacement will be a very hot topic.
  • The internet revolution - once we waited patiently to connect via a modem ... then in 1995 Apple launched a campaign boasting it could connect you to the Internet in 60 seconds - how things have changed. By 2011 we had 3.5K x the performance, 90K x more efficiency and 16K x lower cost. The rate of change is faster than any other industry - what will that mean for public procurement?
  • Procurement needs to understand that these technical advances can be beneficial to them - affecting services coming to the health market, as one example. But people will always be key - the future will not be so much about contracts, as partnerships.
  • Young people will view procurement as an exciting - and different - world from how we percieve it. They don't have the hangups around online 'privacy' that we do - their generation will embrace more open collaboration.
  • Procurement as custodians of regulations will be a thing of the past - it will be about delivering value, challenging demand, stakeholder relationships and, in social care for example, looking at alternative accommodation to make people happier and healthier.
  • Who'd have thought clothing would be one of the biggest buyers of tech? We will be buying this for the public sector, so we must embrace and stay ahead of change.

We will bring you coverage of some of the main topics discussed over on Public Spend Forum Europe (PSFE) - the first of which  you can read here.

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