Procuring for forensics was part of the CIPS Young Professional of the Year’s learning
As Coco Chanel once said: “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” In an industry that is becoming ever more competitive, employees must find ways to stand out.
Like many, I did not actively seek a role in procurement but fell into the career. Even though I had completed a business studies degree, I still had to Google ‘procurement’ on the first day of my placement year. I wanted to have all-round expertise. That would be my way to stand out.
I have experienced procurement from sourcing through contract management and all points in-between. And in every role I have looked back and thought: “I wish I’d known this when I was in my previous roles.”
I learned the basics in my first role, as part of a category team, covering the procurement process, stakeholder management and market knowledge. And I helped to deliver a new self-service procurement system for 30,000 police officers at the Metropolitan Police Service. I then moved on to a category strategy role for a private sector research company, and more recently I have made the switch to the commercial contract management side.
The experience gained from all previous roles really came to fruition when I joined the City of London Corporation. It is a unique organisation with a £400m procurement spend on goods, services and works, ranging from exhibitions at Tower Bridge to horse food for the City police horses.
But it was my stakeholder management experience that helped with the first category I tackled on my arrival: planning and delivering a procurement strategy for forensics services. It helped me to manage the technical aspects of forensics and manage in-depth market engagement to understand the differences between the digital forensics market compared with the traditional forensics such as DNA analysis.
Being a lover of TV crime drama, this category particularly appealed, and one of my highlights was dressing up in a white forensic suit – think Silent Witness – and experiencing a test crime scene with some forensic students. I learnt how forensic samples are collected and processed, which helped me work with the stakeholders to tease out what was needed for the specification and evaluation.
As the lead force on economic crime and fraud, digital forensics is critical for City of London Police, and I was involved in putting in two multi-lot contracts consolidating the majority of our requirements. A particularly challenging part of our contract is the ever-changing market, which is made up of many niche specialist suppliers. My previous strategic experience helped me to consider market implications such as legislative changes that would affect our contract, and was able to factor in the introduction of drug drive Section A legislation, which came into force in 2015.
In my current role I am seeing how intrinsic commercial value is throughout all the P2P process, from considering budgets, through contract values and market benchmarking in the procurement strategy, tendering and continual review post-contract award.
There are two key traits that I have used in all of these roles: Firstly, be friendly. Procurement can have a reputation for being a barrier in an organisation, but being open and honest will help stakeholders get on board; and secondly, never be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes you need to understand the bigger picture to do the best job.
There are some real opportunities out there just waiting to be uncovered, and in these times of continued austerity, it is refreshing to be in a role that focuses not just on savings but where is there an income opportunity. It still surprises me that an essential business function does not feature more in business qualifications.
I owe my recent CIPS Young Professional of the Year award to the wealth of knowledge I have gained through my career choices and sharing them with others, and I would like to use this success to help procurement be in the spotlight of business qualifications.
Karen Moorhouse, CIPS Young Professional of the Year, is commercial contract manager for City of London Corporation