Evolve or die, says Sheffield City procurement boss

31 January 2020

Evolution is central to how the procurement operates at Sheffield City Council.

Speaking at the CIPS Best in Procurement event held in London, Filip Leonard, head of procurement and supply chain at the council, said: “Evolve or die is kind of our mantra internally.” 

The constantly changing landscape of the procurement function requires professionals to seek ways to update their knowledge and ensure their team explores different relationship approaches and innovative solutions. “Whether its people, time or digital disruption, things are evolving,” said Leonard.

He added that the function helps achieve good quality outcomes and services, as well as change and innovation.

You can work with new innovative suppliers by making supplier engagement key. Leonard referenced onboarding a new supplier for the council that is made up of a coalition of GPs in order to deliver a new “bespoke sexual health model driven by the community”. 

He said: “We drove that by not being a faceless bureaucracy, but instead becoming an engaging force in the local marketplace and asking people how we could do things differently.”

At the event senior procurement professionals from the public and private sector provided insights into the importance of culture change, keeping up to date with procurement issues and using direct engagement to find innovative suppliers.

Patrick Dunne, director of property, procurement and cost transformation at Sainsbury’s, said that there’s no going backwards after delivering effective projects, especially as the expectation gets set, so you have to keep reinventing yourself and the function.

Picking up procurement knowledge from events can help keep you up-to-date and bring new lessons into your team, said Dunne.

Dunne said: “I think it’s important to impact the culture because there’s no point pulling together a high-powered team if you aren’t effective.” This risks loss of talent and management support.

He said it was important to know who or where you need to influence to make an impact, whether that’s board members, a senior person in the leadership structure or a division of the company. 

The flow of talent in and out of the organisation is normal and not something to be afraid of as people develop and go on to other jobs and industries, Dunne added. 

“It’s healthy to have new talent coming in and enabling new ideas and ways of working.”

Bringing in experts is another way to increase innovation, either in your supply chain or operational strategies. Gary Cooper, group network category director at Vodafone Procurement Company, said that sometimes there’s a skills gap in the sourcing team, “so you need to bring in other people that understand machine learning and AI and robotics”.

“This evolution and transformation that we’re going through is going to continue and reshape the procurement function,” he added.

Equally, the credibility and recognition that comes from winning awards can also make a big difference to the value given to the procurement function.

Nick Jenkinson, senior director of procurement at Astellas Pharma Europe, said recognition is great but the best positive impact on the team comes from the testimonials from internal stakeholders, and resulting interest in the function from across the company.

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