The week in review – Your comments

A new feature here at Spend Matters, where we take a look at your comments on our articles from the past week.

Negotiation book review – Fight! Fight!

Here we discussed our various opinions on Jonathon O’Brien’s book “Negotiation for Purchasing Professionals” after Stephen Ashcroft’s controversial review came out in the Supply Management magazine.

Bitter and twisted thought:

“It reads like a hatchet job. It may well be that the 4-phase model is garbage and that Ekman, Rawson, et al. are wise beyond compare…. but you’d expect a reviewer to present a proper argument, not just bald assertions.”

Final Furlong believed it needed more balanced views:

"Supply Management should choose senior practitioners – not competitors – to review these books. Equally, individuals, if asked to review a competitor’s product, need to be ethical and state that they are conflicted (and especially if they are providing services in relation to negotiation training). We need to see balanced views (remember SM’s broad readership) and it is clear from the review that this hasn’t been provided."

However Bitter and twisted didn’t think so:

"I disagree. We don’t need balanced reviews – we need intelligent reviews."

Nor did Phoenix:

"I have to say I’m with my friend B&T. Surely when academic papers receive ‘peer reviews’ they are, in effect, reviews by competing academics, who will sometimes be scathing, but also (occasionally) ‘intelligent’. I’m all for reading people’s views, as long as I know who they are and, therefore, have a frame of reference for them."

Capita take over from Serco and G4S on tagging contract

In this article we discussed the UK Government’s reliance on large suppliers, and the key problems which can arise from this (in the context of Capita, Atos, Serco and G4S).

Rob Wake believed more competition was needed:

"I don’t see any press coverage of how Capita completely ballsed up its ‘vehicle tagging’ contract with DVLA!

What no one (except those who do!) knows yet is that allegedly Capita is being gifted the TfL Congestion Charge contract in January!!

Little real competition ... Yet the congestion charging op is the world’s biggest – shouldn’t the tax payer expect it to at least go to a provider who had undergone a rigorous competitive process?!"

However Phoneix replied with a good point:

"Which competitor is going to risk (throw away) quite hefty bid costs when there’s only a very remote chance of winning? You’d have to agree to pay my bid costs to make me remotely interested and what are the chances of that?"

Christmas Trees and the dangers of price benchmarking

After discovering there was a 50 fold price difference in expenditure on government Christmas trees, we were sceptical. It highlights the difficulty of making broad comparisons; essentially they’re meaningless without considering the specifications.

We only received one comment on this article, from Procurement Bob, but he made an interesting point:

"I’d disagree for a lot of commodity items (a lot of what government buys). Price benchmarking shines a light on where you’re not getting a good price and makes you ask the question – could we be getting a better one? There’s always a reason why the price varies, but in a lot of instances it’s due to a lack of information for the buyer, inconsistent procurement and suppliers making a best guess at what will win them the business. As a taxpayer and procurement professional I welcome this level of transparency and wish we weren’t so defensive and a bit more open to ask the question why."

We’re always interested to hear your opinions and encourage discussion in the comments section of our articles, so please get typing!

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