“Procurement is one of the most common causes of delay in getting stuff done,” a leading financial services CIO told the Horizon CIO podcast WhatsApp group recently. Procurement practices need to change in large organisations and the public sector.
As customers demand digital services IT and its leaders have adopted Agile delivery, iterative product lifecycle and eco-systems of suppliers, procurement has not kept pace. As last year’s Horizon CIO Podcast revealed, there is a great deal of frustration. That frustration is not just amongst CIOs, last week forward thinking procurement leaders and technologists gathered at the National Archives in Kew for an un-conference to discuss further the themes first aired in the Horizon CIO podcast.
“IT has moved to a series of methods, Agile, lean and Six Sigma to deliver its projects,” says mapping expert Simon Wardley. “Procurement is still a single model, no matter the type or size of project.” Wardley warned that just as within IT there has been “Agile oversteer” with projects being made Agile where the method does not fit. “You need a toolbox of methods.”
“This is a much wider conversation than public sector and technology,” Stance-Global CIO James Findlay says. But as former CTO of National Archives and NHS Digital Rachel Murphy says: “We have to make public sector procurement better.
On the Horizon CIO podcast WhatsApp group CIOs from banking described problems of procurement process that: “Too often buy stuff that’s barely fit of purpose, but as cheap as possible”.
Another adds: “It is still anti-agility in regulated environments; crushes choices, reduces healthy competition, selection options and leads to a general acceptance of mediocrity coupled with a poor customer experience.”
David Kershaw, a procurement leader says there can be gaps between the commercial knowledge of IT departments and procurement teams. Forward thinking procurement leaders embed themselves in IT teams during major transformations to share their commercial procurement knowledge and to breathe in the agility of technology. But there has been cases of procurement leaders being disciplined for breaking down barriers.
“There are many many regulations, but only a few must be known by everyone,” Kershaw says. At the un-conference we discussed the idea of procurement teams becoming brokers in the business in much the same way as CIOs have in the adoption of cloud technology.
“We need to identify the things that Agile teams need to know about procurement,” Kershaw says. Throughout the event it was said by a number of participants that greater commercial skills were required in IT teams, in terms of their awareness of the constraints that procurement teams have to work within and the regulations that govern purchasing.
It was also identified that when technology projects are completed and success is celebrated, the procurement teams are forgotten, mainly because they have moved on. CIOs and procurement leaders agreed that procurement must be involved in success celebrations.
Stephen Docherty, CIO with the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust suggests that new agile procurement roles could be created and paid for by the CIO to prove the model.
One of the most pertinent points of the un-conference was that procurement faces a burning platform. That burning platform is Brexit. If Brexit does come to pass it will drastically change the procurement and technology sourcing of all organisations.