Government focuses on strategic supplier relationship management

13 November 2018

The Government Commercial Function has launched a piece of work to strengthen strategic supplier relationship management across major contracts.

Speaking at the launch of State of Flux’s 10th annual global SRM research report, Cabinet Office (CO) head of supplier relationship management Stephen Duckworth explained how until recently the government’s focus had been more on contract and performance management. 

However a number of National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee reviews had driven home the fact that “government needs to be a lot better at managing its contracts with suppliers”, Duckworth said.

“It’s about how government manages its most strategic, complex and large suppliers. SRM is essential for the delivery of complex and unique services and the value it can bring is quite substantial.”

The CO is funding a trial across the five largest-spend government departments and 31 strategic suppliers. The departments are HMRC, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for International Development, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Transport. 

Working with State of Flux, the CO is helping each department conduct a Voice of the Supplier study, an internal SRM review and to develop a value proposition for SRM.

“Developing SRM value propositions is the critical bit of the process,” said Duckworth. “It’s how we engage across the organisation, get them bought into the vision of what we are doing and why. It has to be aligned to departmental policy and what they are trying to achieve, like the NHS running well and the Ministry of Defence having enough tanks.” 

The team is also doing a deep dive review of major contracts, as well as developing joint business plans. “It’s the fundamentals of what is and isn’t happening on every contract,” said Duckworth. “Is it still fit for purpose, before you start talking about things like innovation.”

“The key thing is performance management,” he added. “It’s about developing shared milestones, key accountabilities and roadmaps. It’s easy to sit with a supplier and come up with 100 things. Focus on a few instead and make sure they really do add value to both parties.” 

Duckworth said that his key advice to others looking to undergo a similar programme was not to underestimate the amount of work, resource and stakeholder engagement and buy-in required to make things happen.

During the second phase of the programme, in early 2019, the CO plans to introduce its SRM governance model to five more departments. It is also building a centre of excellence for SRM and adding an SRM element to the commercial assessments run by the Government Commercial Function.

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