The University of Bristol’s head buyer has told of how she turned around procurement to make savings.
Anj Cooke arrived at the university in August 2014 to head up a new procurement department, responsible for the purchase of goods and services. She said the department was in need of a “refresh, realignment and rejig” around category management and its e-tendering tools.
Cooke set about creating an operational strategy, reached out to internal stakeholders and developed her team with the aim of making the department a strategic part of the university. “I needed to look at standard documents, I needed to look at my resources, I needed to look at coms.”
Speaking at eWorld in London, Cooke said she started by taking stock of what she had inherited and made both a short-term plan – “What I’m going to do now to change it” – and a longer-term strategy. A lot of the initial changes were operational, “however you’ve got to put those foundations in, in order to make it tick,” she said.
She also took stock of the university’s existing e-tools to assess “what’s good, bad and indifferent”.
Cooke, who came to the university from the NHS, is also in the process of understanding who the university’s critical suppliers are. “Coming from a blue-light background, one of the things that was critical to me was, ‘What’s your top 10, what’s your top 20, your top 50 critical supplier list?’” she said. “What would happen if those top 50 suppliers couldn’t supply you any more?”
Cooke has also worked alongside academics to help them to achieve transparency and prevent procurement fraud.
When implementing big change Cooke advised: “Unless you take your people with you on your journey, forget it. [If] you have one weak link in the chain, you need to address it whether it’s a training need, whether it’s a resource need, whether it’s a behavioural need, whether it’s a learning need.”
Getting her team CIPS qualifications was also “worth its weight in gold” when working with academics, she said.
Cooke said she is “half way up the road” to making procurement a strategic function in the university.
Persistence was key she said. “What you mustn’t do if you’re on that journey yourselves is ever give up. It is like pushing treacle up the hill with one hand tied behind your back at times, but keep going. Because eventually it [the benefit] comes home to hit them [stakeholders].”
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