Be proactive if you want to be strategic, buyers told

30 November 2000
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30 November 2000 | David Arminas

Purchasing professionals within universities and colleges have been urged to be more proactive in promoting what they can do for the bottom line.

If purchasing is to have a strategic role, it must be embedded within the management processes and be part of strategic planning,” said Ian Lewis, head of finance for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce).

Speaking at a London Universities Purchasing Consortium (Lupc) conference this month, he noted that project management skills will be increasingly in demand. “There are increasing numbers of projects funded by the Hefce such as new buildings, so there is a need to select the right supplier and to ensure those projects are delivered on time.”

Expertise must be teased out from all corners of universities. This included making sure that staff have the necessary skills to move procurement on to a higher level, particularly where it is carried on through a devolved structure and where some decision-making is made by academic managers.

“They have to be aware of the benefits that can be secured,” Lewis added.

“Heads of procurement need to promote the value they can deliver, and some of them might find that they are a little uncomfortable with that,” he told SM.

Management of large projects, particularly purchasing major IT infrastructure, is becoming more a focus for government departments, delegates were told by Peter Gershon, chief executive of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the government’s driver for more joined-up procurement throughout all departments.

But Gershon acknowledged there was a surfeit of guidance to departments. “It cannot all be best practice,” he said. “No one person can determine what is relevant or not to the high-value, high-impact issues that departments are facing today.”

The OGC is making advice more coherent and digestible, he said, beginning with development of a common project review with defined points in their life cycle, including pre-defined deliverables.

There should be an independent review of those deliverables to assess whether the scheme is ready to pass from one phase to another, Gershon added.


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