Features: February 27th, 2015

In this feature Nigel Crunden explores the wider issues of public sector procurement beyond the process of acquiring goods, works and services.

The UK public sector spends around £23bn each year on the procurement of goods, works and services, which accounts for around a third of overall public sector expenditure. Public sector procurement is therefore a business function that directly impacts on performance and, ultimately, the service offered to end users.

Consequently, procurement decisions and processes have a major influence on best practice across a range of government departments and functions. Therefore, focusing on value for money and efficiency can help ensure that this influence is a positive one. By leading in this way, public procurement can also influence firms’ future investment decisions in equipment, jobs and training. The individual supply chain partners of government departments can play a major role in helping achieve this – indeed, those suppliers that don’t already should be challenging themselves to provide added-value advice and guidance over and above simply providing products and services.

Differentiating a service is no longer an optional extra but a vital element of retaining work with major buyers in the public sector.

The level of strategic input suppliers provide should be guided by a number of areas but this begins with the basic ability to plan around potential delivery failures or supply chain breakdowns. An essential part of the credentials of any supplier should be a transport system that provides on-the-spot back-up if a delivery failure seems likely.

However, there is more that suppliers should be doing to ensure they are considered business partners instead of mere vendors. This comes down to pro-active efforts to understand the needs of public sector clients through robust account management processes. These include implementing regular visits to client premises to discuss evolving needs and gain feedback on how the service could be improved. Ensuring clients see the ‘face of the supplier’ in this way also provides the chance to suggest alternative product lines that either offer more value for money or help customers in meeting ethical or environmental requirements.

Advice and consultation on how to manage stock more efficiently should also be part and parcel of the service supplier’s offer – and the delivery schedule on offer should be flexible enough to fit into the frequencies that suit the needs of the customer. In this way, the level of assistance suppliers provide can become an integral part of customers’ day-to-day schedules – and as business partners in the process cement their status.

It is in this way that supplier relationships can become real assets to public sector customers, who not only need to clearly demonstrate the value of the procurement-based decisions they make, but also position achievements to other public sector departments. By collaborating with a few dedicated suppliers, this is not just an easy way to simplify the supply management process, it is also an opportunity to develop a relationship where both parties reap the benefit.

An effective supply partner will improve the efficiency of customer operations and add value through providing insight and guidance, as well as products and services. Therefore, having one or a select number of suppliers helps to build trust and transparency in order to meet the needs of end users in a way that maximises value.

Nigel Crunden is a Business Specialist at Office Depot

Office Depot, Inc. is a leading global provider of products, services, and solutions for every workplace – whether the workplace is an office, home, school, or car. It is a resource and a catalyst to help customers work better by providing a single source for everything customers need to be more productive, including the latest technology, core office supplies, print and document services, business services, facilities products, furniture, and school essentials.