Department for Transport building a 'professional community' among its buyers

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
14 March 2015

A system of meetings for buyers at the Department for Transport (DfT) and its agencies has been introduced to help “build a professional community”.

Simon Lydiard, deputy director group procurement at the DfT, told SM the system of meetings was introduced around 18 months ago to provide updates on case law and policy and share best practice, as part of work to improve skills.

Under the scheme around a dozen heads of procurement, from the various arms of the DfT including Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, HS2, Highways Agency and Network Rail, either take part in a telephone conference or meet up to share learning experiences on a monthly basis. Every three months around 50 buyers meet to hear stories of best practice. The meetings take place at different venues around the country.

“We have tried to build a professional community in the department,” said Lydiard. “They [the meetings] are very valuable because they are a means of virtually coordinating the entire group.”

A quarterly forum has also been established for contract managers, along with a new training regime to improve skills.

Lydiard said a “virtual policy team” had also been established, comprising around eight people drawn from different parts of the department, whose ideas feed into the decision-making process.

“You could get an idea at one of our quarterly forums which would result in the virtual policy team picking up the idea and delivering a solution to the issue,” said Lydiard.

“Instead of me at the centre of the department saying: ‘Here’s your policy, get on with it’, we all work together collaboratively to build it so everyone has a say and it builds something much stronger than something which is dictated from the centre.”

Lydiard also said the DfT would be making use of the government’s “small business research initiative” for certain projects, including one to “radically improve the design of trains”.

“It’s where we face a problem and we don’t know how to solve it,” he said. “What’s great about this is we’re not saying: ‘We know how to solve something, can we please buy it’, we're saying: ‘Here’s our challenge and we will fund the development of the solution’.”

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