John Lewis considers crowdsourcing for supplier innovation

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
30 June 2014

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1 July 2014 | Will Green

The new head of indirect procurement at John Lewis Partnership (JLP) is considering using crowdsourcing to drive supplier innovation.

Paul Bestford, who was appointed procurement director in April, said problems and issues could be posted on a crowdsourcing platform and a prize offered for the best solution.

“There are certain areas of spend that make a direct difference to our customers, whether it’s the look and feel of our stores or our marketing programmes,” he said. “Where crowdsourcing works really well is you can identify a very specific problem, issue or opportunity and you post that problem on a sourcing platform and offer a prize to the person who comes up with the best solution. That for us is a very attractive vehicle for identifying innovation quickly.”

Bestford described procurement at JLP as “being in the teenage years”, with “some basics under our belts” but with challenges ahead. 

“There is a more potential for us to make sure we are absolutely getting the best value for money from the suppliers we work with,” he said.

“My goal is to double the rate of savings return over the next five years. We’re doing that in steps. Our goal next year is a 20 per cent increase on this year. It’s a substantial challenge.”

As well as more innovation, he also wants to improve service levels with stakeholders. “I want us to provide at least as good a service to our internal customers as we provide to the customers who walk through our doors or shop online. That is a high bar,” he said.

Bestford is in charge of the firm’s £1.4 billion of annual indirect spend with 14,000 suppliers, among whom he likes a “healthy level of churn”.

“I think there is a healthy level of churn in that supply base so it would worry me if we were working with the same suppliers year in, year out for decades,” he said. “I would like to a see a certain amount of fluidity in our supply base because that to me suggests we are bringing innovation into the business and we are challenging the way we work and the people we work with.”

Bestford is also planning to expand his team of 75, with six vacancies up for grabs from category management level downwards, and he is looking for original thinkers.

“I prefer people who are perhaps a bit innovative themselves, people who are not willing to accept the prevailing trend of thought, the latest fad, but who think and challenge for themselves and work out what’s the right path to take,” he said.

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