After the Grenfell disaster the government asked housing providers to listen to local communities © PA Images
After the Grenfell disaster the government asked housing providers to listen to local communities © PA Images

Customer voices are key to driving innovation

3 December 2018

Leadership is crucial to procuring efficiently but customer voices need to be heard in order to drive innovation.

Delegates at Fusion21’s Buy Smarter conference were told the key to driving innovation throughout the procurement process is listening to customers, whether that be the people receiving the end-product or the client trying to deliver the product alongside contractors.

Ian Bamforth, assistant director of asset management at Saxon Weald, said: “After Grenfell, the government asked us to listen to our customers and listen to that local voice. Leadership needs to be strong but there is opportunity for innovation if we can get to that voice. You might find that it’s the residents that have ideas, or your current contractor, but you have to have the ability to step back and listen to them.”

During a panel discussion on whether procurement stifles innovation, delegates heard that innovation is one of the tools that procurement teams need to provide customers with more effective services and deliver on some of the challenges they currently face.

Jane Porter, chief operating officer at Optivo, said she doesn’t believe that legal processes and ensuring OJEU compliance should hinder innovation, as discussions between client and procurement teams should be happening from the very beginning.

She said: “When you’re a big organisation with people wanting different things, leadership is achieved by setting out that vision and bringing those teams together so that you can ensure you’re delivering for all of them and making sure that they all understand each other’s challenges.”

She added that client teams should be clear from the outset about their needs, adding: “Just make sure that you know what you want and that you’re working closely with those that are procuring for you, not just at the beginning but throughout the whole process. If you do all of those things, you will deliver innovation.”

When discussing whether other factors can determine how innovative procurement can be, Scott Baxendale, executive director of assets at Stonewater, said if a procurement team’s decision is driven by price, there’s less chance of innovation.

He said: “Many contractors are driven by return on investment so if you want to get contractors to innovate, there has to be something that adds value for them as well. To go back to the question of procurement stifling innovation, I think it can do but it doesn't have to. You need to look at your long-term relationships, what your drivers are and what you’re trying to deliver.”

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