Last autumn we at London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC), a non-profit professional buying organisation owned by its members in the capital’s higher education, arts, sciences and cultural sectors, were rated as "superior" in an assessment of our procurement capability.
The test, developed by the Scottish Government and run by assessors from Advanced Procurement in Universities & Colleges (APUC), compares current performance with best-in-class standards. After our initial assessment in 2013, we embarked on a programme of improvement to our systems and processes, achieving the "superior" status upon our re-assessment in October.
The Procurement Capability Assessment (PCA) examines an organisation’s competency in procurement leadership and governance, sourcing, contract and supplier management, people and skills, performance and stakeholder management, improvement programmes, and use of technology. Most universities and colleges in England have undertaken a similar developmental exercise, driving improvement across the sector.
We feel our progress reflects the widespread advancement of procurement across the entire higher education sector in England in the past three years, particularly in collaborative procurement. Our members know the true value of collaboration and we owe our status to the commitment of our members and all regional HE consortia in England to work together to achieve optimum buying power in the market.
LUPC’s principal improvements included:
• Our clear commitment to sustainable procurement stood us in good stead, as was evidenced by the independent verification of our achievement of Level three of the Sustainable Procurement Flexible Framework and our founding membership of Electronics Watch.
• We were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of our collaborative member groups in developing sourcing strategies in consideration of SMEs and third sector organisations. We also evidenced increased local collaboration between members.
• We introduced a risk and value mapping process to determine the level of management required for each category and we demonstrated how we had implemented a business partnering process to help increase take-up of our agreements.
• We developed a simple suite of operational KPIs to measure people's performance and use the Higher Education Procurement Academy (HEPA) Competency Framework to help develop personal development plans for our people.
• We developed and improved our communications plan to incorporate our business partner work. We also demonstrated how we enhanced our communications with suppliers, media and stakeholders, including using social media.
• We demonstrated how, through our major role with our partners to develop and promote HEPA, we have encouraged and led the sharing of information and best practice.
Our chairman Dr Andrew Young, who is also chief operating officer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, believes the outlook for public funding for the activities of our membership is widely predicted to be even harsher than before in the near future and this will bring about an even higher profile for professional procurement as our members seek to derive even greater value from their scarce resources.
☛ Andy Davies is director at London Universities Purchasing Consortium