Supporting the move towards digital procurement should be among the future priorities of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), its outgoing CEO has said.
Malcolm Harrison, who will leave the CCS to become the new group CEO of CIPS at the end of July, said government’s central buying authority had made a lot of progress in the time that he has been at the helm, but that there was still more work to be done.
Speaking at the Procurex South conference in London on Thursday, Harrison outlined four key areas that he hoped CCS would continue to focus on after his departure. These include the move towards digital procurement services, a focus on collaborating with the wider public sector, investing in skills and talent and continuing to supporting SMEs through public spending.
He added that he was “absolutely delighted” to be appointed the new head of CIPS, but said his focus would remain “absolutely” on the CCS until the end of July.
Harrison said the future of the CCS was going to be “much more digital”. Technology will continue to change the way procurement operates and it was important for the CCS to think about how it will interact with buyers and suppliers through online and digital approaches in the future.
The development of the Crown Market Place would be one of the biggest changes for CCS as it moves to an online digital environment that will be based on “user needs, customer journeys and a digital approach”, said Harrison. CCS has already introduced several catalogues to the Crown Market Place, one of which provides dynamic pricing for technology goods and services.
Speaking about collaboration, Harrison said CCS had seen a renewed focus on supporting the wider public sector, but cautioned against making past mistakes where the organisation tried to control too much. “We should get much better at collaborating together to ensure that we are managing the supplier base rather than the supplier base managing us,” he said.
He said the public sector spends around £250bn a year, with around £100bn spent on collective goods and services. “We’re never going to be able to control all of that [spend] centrally; we shouldn’t ever try to,” he said.
“I think our [the CCS’s] role is much more one of leadership, much more one of collaboration than it is one of control.”
Harrison said one of the biggest reasons he was attracted to the top role at CIPS was because he wanted to “leverage” the organisation’s reach to attract talent and young people into the procurement profession. Likewise, he said, it was important that CCS continued to invest in its people. He said: “Any profession, any function, any team is only as good as the people that are in it.
“We [CCS] do need to continue to ensure that we have the right people, with the right skills, the right attitude, the right approach, and give them the right tools so we continue to attract the right people into the profession.”
On SMEs, Harrison said CCS would continue to focus on making government an attractive business partner. “SMEs are the lifeblood of any country, the lifeblood of the UK, it’s incredibly important that we put as much of our spend as we can to relevant SMEs,” he said.
Touching briefly on Brexit, Harrison said procurement regulations were likely to stay the same even as the UK transitioned out of the EU. There would be opportunities for the UK to “do things differently”, but “maybe not quite as quickly as we might like,” he said.
“I for one vehemently hope that in the years to come we will get the chance to get some regulations, some ways of operating which allow us to take a much more inherently commercial approach than perhaps we’re able to today,” he said.
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