Wednesday, 11 December 2013

What are the Cool People doing in the Public Sector?

Procurement and innovation - lessons for us all

It depends on your definition of cool, of course, but to my mind the work of procurement professionals pushing collaboration and innovation is to be admired. 

I saw this first hand at the Local Government Procurement Annual Conference in Sydney recently, where people even in remote regional Councils stepped up to work with other LGAs to:
  • Standardise processes and accounting practices to develop best practice models for organisations of particular scale or type (the Technology Working Group - various metropolitan/regional/remote Councils);
  • Encourage small local businesses to take a tilt at a Council contract in their area where youth unemployment hovers at 30% (Wyong);
  • Develop new markets for recyclable waste (glass recycled into road base - Waverley); and 
  • Develop common procurement portals in use across various State procurement agencies (VendorPanel - LGP).
We really don't give them enough credit. Not only do they have to meet onerous proof of good governance and regulations surrounding the spending of public money (irrespective of their scale of operations), hitherto many have worked blind or alone, reinventing the wheel. They have one real advantage over private enterprise, however - they aren't afraid to collaborate and share because have a common goal of the public good and, unlike the private sector, even if they are performing the same job, they aren't in competition.

Some of the speakers were people who came up through the ranks via general purchasing and had gone on to undertake further training and development with a global professional association. Others had come from corporate positions into their present role. The most interesting work was where Procurement Managers took a strategic view and helped various divisions to achieve broader organisational goals.

As someone in the private sector who periodically spends a fair amount of time responding to public tenders, I can attest that although some tender questions may at first glance seem peripheral to our activities, often these same questions make us re-evaluate the way we structure our business and come up with new and better ways to operate.

Here's a great tip to share - LGP as an organisation has done a great deal to facilitate work on key industry projects to establish common standards and it also facilitates a mentor/mentee program. Participants can privately put up their hand to receive or offer help (they can even suggest preferred partners) and LGP helps to match suitable professionals up for the purpose. At conferences who wants to publicly admit they want help? I thought their suggestion was utterly sensible. More power to their bow!