UK Government publishes Lean Sourcing guidance / SOPs

The UK’s Cabinet Office and the Government Procurement Service that sits within it recently published a raft of material around “Lean Sourcing”, one of the main building blocks of their efforts to improve public procurement performance.  Much of the focus is on reducing the average time for procurement exercises to 120 days, and this is seen as a key tool to help achieve that.

So, is the 53 page Lean Sourcing guide, principally made up of the Standard Operating Procedures, going to revolutionise public procurement?

Let’s start with the positives.

1. This is primarily a guide to best practice project management in the context of a major procurement exercise. And that’s valuable in itself. Many procurement exercises have failed because of poor project management, and if I had my time over again, I would get some project management qualifications.

2.  The drive to shorten the timescales for most procurement s is admirable and this structured methodology  will help achieve that. For the vast majority of procurements., 120 days should be achievable.

3.  While I’ve had concerns about the way “early engagement with suppliers” has been presented as a panacea, the way it is described here is thorough, and sensible.

4. All in all, public sector procurement would improve if all practitioners were capable of delivering the processes described here.

But – you know there was a “but” coming, didn’t you – it’s important to understand the limitations of this document and the Lean Sourcing SOPs.

Firstly, they appear to apply largely to and describe a certain sort of procurement exercise – a major, one-off type procurement, rather than a smaller contract, or indeed a procurement in a category management / routinely purchased spend area. They assume a whole structure of project management which I think a smaller public sector organisation might struggle with, and there is no mention of how the procurement exercise might fit in with a longer term category management approach for instance.

Secondly, the SOPSs provide no guidance for what are many of the most important issues to consider in major procurements of any kind, public or private sector. That’s not really a criticism as such – you can’t possibly cover all this in 50 pages. But it should be made clear that this isn’t an exhaustive guide to public procurement good practice. Rather, it is a process guide to the operational running of a major procurement exercise, whilst many of what we might call “professional procurement” aspects are barely covered.

And we’ll expand on that on Monday and highlight some of the gaps.

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Voices (4)

  1. dan2:

    In personal experience, the root cause of procurement taking too long is generally due to poor understanding of requirements (or not making any effort to document them); then revisiting the scope as the procurement progresses.

    If the ‘industry bootcamp stage’ tackles the requirements issue then I think it will go a long way to help.

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