16 March 2009 | Jake Kanter
The Royal Mail's new CPO believes the challenges of the financial crisis are a "fabulous opportunity" for procurement professionals and says her team of buyers could become the "custodians of change".
Speaking exclusively to SM, group procurement director Kath Harmeston said her team must become a key part of ongoing and future transformation programmes at the Royal Mail.
The organisation is going through one of the most turbulent times in its history - the controversial possibility of part-privatisation - and is also modernising its letters division by introducing new technology for the handling and dispatch of mail.
Harmeston said her team was putting together a "menu of services" for the business, and telling units within the company where their procurement knowledge could boost innovation, market understanding and commercial expertise.
She hoped the Royal Mail would come to automatically consider purchasing as a means to mitigate
risk and support commercial decisions.
"It's about getting aligned with the transformation programme of the business and positioning ourselves at those fundamental decision points, from a commercial intellect perspective, but also from a supply market and supply management perspective," she said.
"It's a marvellous opportunity to take an already well recognised function and lead it into more of a business partner."
Harmeston wants to have much more visibility with the organisation's "business-critical partners", and is working to become better aligned with them to "squeeze out" more innovation.
She plans to update the Royal Mail's Procurement Transformation Project, which three years ago set out save £300 million by the end of 2009. Harmeston confirmed the savings target would be revised, but would not be drawn on what the new target would be or if it would be more or less than the £300 million.
"We can't just stop with what we set ourselves three years ago," she said.
Her proposals should be established and agreed by May.
The Royal Mail's 100-strong buying department still aims to become one of the top three procurement teams in Europe.Harmeston acknowledged it remained "a little bit behind" in certain areas, but would not give further details.