Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Santa's procurement hoverboard hell or heaven?

Forget Santa, this could be another bad news day for the procurement profession, given that Amazon have advised customers they should throwaway hoverboards they have purchased due to safety concerns.

Behind the need for refunds will be a calling to account for those who handled the sourcing of the hoverboards and how so many have failed to meet UK, and I assume EU, safety standards. I can visualise the customer helplines of many large retailers being inundated with calls from customers looking for assurances that their hoverboards meet safety standards. Similar calls have probably already been made by CEO's and Marketing Directors!

In those situations Procurement is vulnerable if not culpable. This is an opportunity and a risk for Procurement.
  1. If Procurement were involved but the hoverboards their organisation have on the market are safe, then they need to 'strike while the iron is hot', and get the CEO seizing the opportunity to market the company as a responsible retailer while others have been seen to fail; 
  2. If Procurement were not involved in the sourcing then the case is made for future involvement and the application of procurement risk management tools, including process improvements;
  3. Sadly, if Procurement were involved and the hoverboards now need to be recalled - I hope they believe in Santa too! 

Monday, 14 December 2015

On 'Lots' within a sourcing strategy.

Peter Smith posted an interesting post a few days ago on 'Lots' (breaking up potential contracts into smaller packages). His post was a follow-up to a previous discussion on the EUs strong steer that, in their view, 'lots' should be the default strategy when letting contracts.

I have advocated the use of 'lots' for many years but that has always been as a tool in achieving the strategic objectives of the organisation, for example, ease of access to SMEs.  If 'lots' are not strategically aligned with the organisation's objectives then, to me, they should not be used.

'Lots' are just one of an array of strategic sourcing options which should be considered - they should not, however, be the default option. Nevertheless, the EU now expects public sector procurers to document why 'lots' are not used and therefore implies, they are the option of preference. The implication is that at some stage that documentation will be need to be produced as some sort of discoverable evidence in defence of a professional judgement by the CPO.

Now I am not against a CPO documenting an options appraisal which justified why 'lots' were not used, on the contrary I would like to see more procurement decisions led out in logical argument. However, I feel those documented justifications should be for internal scrutiny and not something which the EU should demand.

I also have concerns of what this could lead to. For example,

Friday, 4 December 2015

Poker Playing Procurement

In amongst the debate on bombing Syria, you have missed the news that a requirement from the Prince of Wales for TV channels to sign a 15 page contract in order to have an interview with him has possibly backfired. It has led to one interview being scrapped and some of 'the market' collaborating in a potential refusal to sign. What happens next and who is the loser in this game of poker?

In the long-term it is impossible to believe that neither the media nor Prince Charles would want a stand-off. So will the Royal Household relax the requirement or will the media simply give in? If I were an advisor to the media I would advocate that they stand their ground in the belief that ultimately Prince Charles needs the media more than  the media need him - after all the Royal Household must have a communications strategy and 'closing down' one option is counter-productive for someone with such strong desire to express personal views.

One of the things I have become more conscious of since leaving the practitioner world of public procurement is the amount of investment potential bidders put into qualifying potential bids, in other words, calculating the likelihood of success compared to the cost expended in the bidding process. It is not taken as a given that because a buyer has invited an RFI that a bid should be prepared.

Bidding is always a gamble for the bidder. Having said that, onerous conditions placed by buyers don't make the contract any more attractive, in fact more often than not the opposite. The illustration of Prince Charles pre-contracts serves well to demonstrate that sometimes preferred suppliers may just say 'no thanks' - indeed those suppliers may never know that the buyer had a preference for them.  

Let's remember that when a buyer goes to the market, they generally have a required need and the worst of situations is when the market says 'no thanks'. Yes, you can have a great brand name,  you may even have Chartered status, yes, you can have great structures and policies and procedures, and even a seat at the top table, but if the market opts not to deal with you, you may also be a loser.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Even ISIS have a procurement process

ISIS have wreaked havoc across the globe as we clamour to find a solution to their terror machine. Their sophisticated use of social media is far more advanced than most western businesses and governments, but what about their procurement processes?

Give some thought to how you would go about managing a supply chain which copes with the insatiable demand for bullets, guns, suicide vests, IEDs, etc. to the front line - thousands of bullets alone every day. The consequences of not getting the 'right thing, to the right place at the right time' may also have a heavy price to pay in personal accountability. While we discuss airstrikes, effective disruption of the procurement process would be a useful strategy as it would demoralise the 'frontline' and seriously degrade ISIS impact - it has to be explored and exhausted. 

Blackmarket arms dealers are 'licenced' by ISIS commanders, following approval by two members of the security services, and provided with stamped IDs which provide freedom of movement on the condition that ISIS are the sole customer. 

A 'pull' system is in place from the front line; effectively a requisitioning process. Requisitions are received by 'centres' - various tools are used to communicate the requisitions. The 'Committee' provide price lists to the 'centres' for common items. The dealers also receive  price lists.

Amazingly, they have also adopted a strategic approach in that since prices having been rising, they have issued more dealer licences in an effort to encourage competition reduce prices!

Governance of the process is a top table issue, understandable given the risk of failure.

There's something fascinating about this procurement process, isn't there: requisitions, price lists, approvals, making markets work, governance, speedier transactional processes. We can't tell if compliance is an issue or even quality control, but the next time you hear someone arguing that the procurement process doesn't work for them, spare a thought to how easy it all could be.