Many of our information assurance solutions have to be pitched against customer requirements that are not fully formed and are at times reliant on their specialist suppliers to fill in the gaps that interpret the ‘need’ to the ‘how’. This means a competitive exercise can have uncertainties on the need. The approach to generating a compliant – and winning – solution is operating out of necessity in a dynamic environment. This leaves our procurement team in a challenging position, trying to obtain compliant, stable, competitive proposals from the supply base while not necessarily having a stable baseline to work with.
The tendency in the past may have been put a hold on any procurement activity until the baseline was firm and formally released from engineering. Such an approach would be viewed as ‘business prevention’ rather than assisting in business success. It would leave little time to go out to the supply base and for them to respond in a way that would provide good competitive solutions. It would preclude suppliers being able to ask for clarifications that would improve that quality and provide more winning capability to our solution.
A fundamental aspect is for procurement to understand, and be interested in, the bigger picture of what the business is trying to achieve. Procurement can then identify how they can contribute not just for the current prospect, but also to subsequent ones, particularly with a similar product baseline. This allows procurement to position the supply base to contribute to that wider picture in a way that will enhance our solution – for example, a support solution that finds common ground and efficiencies not just for the current prospect, but for others in the future. This closer working with best-in-class suppliers leverages benefits for both parties, shaping and refining solutions to customer needs that may not have emerged in the traditional ‘chuck it over the wall’ approach.
Ultimately, we want the procurement team to identify with our team’s needs and timelines and contribute to
its tactical successes while enhancing the strategic direction. This means working closely with the team and getting involved early in the acquisition life cycle. By doing that means procurement can encourage the supply base to contribute in the same way and bring those best-in-class suppliers into the wider team. Our recent win of an information assurance – cross domain project suggests we are collectively doing something right. For procurement, there is no dwelling in an ivory tower.
How procurement works at BAE
It is key for procurement to manage the supply base in such a way that it can constructively participate even when the goalposts are on the move. This is achieved through close, honest two-way working relationships with the internal team and participating suppliers.
At times this has to be achieved rapidly with a minimum of planning, so needs procurement professionals able to work freestyle at times where there is little precedent and scarce guidance.
Solid application of the basics can usually cut through matters to deliver results and deliver on promises and deadlines.
The procurement team contributes to both tactical successes and the strategic direction. This sees them work closely with the team and get involved at an early stage in the acquisition life cycle. Procurement can also encourage suppliers to contribute in the same way, and bring the top performers into the wider team.
☛ Paul Whittle is project manager, information assurance,
BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies