Vodafone's lockdown response helped by board-level supplier links

High-level and close partnerships with key suppliers enabled Vodafone to respond swiftly to the coronavirus lockdown.

Simon Hood, senior enablers manager at Vodafone, said within 48 hours of lockdown they were able to get the COO from a supplier to present to the board.

Speaking at the CIPS Managing Risk in Procurement and Supply Breakfast Briefing, Hood said a key objective at Vodafone was identifying key strategic suppliers “fundamental to the delivery of our services”, and where there were high levels of potential risk. Such partners included Nokia, Ericsson, Openreach and Cisco.

“Once we have identified who those key partners are we go through a stage of setting up a framework around that supplier,” he said.

This includes identifying a board-level sponsor within Vodafone, which “allows us to generate speed to react”.

They then engage with the board of the supplier “at the top strategic level” and “agree what we want to achieve”.

“Covid-19 has been a clear risk to us as an organisation. We have had to react very quickly,” Hood said.

“Within 48 hours we got the COO from a supplier to present to our board and talk about business continuity plans, have really clear alignment about where the priorities lay, what the next steps were, and then we were able to enact a governance framework to operationally manage the situation very quickly.”

Hood added: “You can execute from the bottom but you need support from the top.”

He said managing internal relationships was also important, and there could be 50-60 people from different elements of the business on a call with a supplier.

“This is about really robust contract enforcement both with suppliers and within the business. It’s not always the supplier’s failure – within the organisation you sometimes have challenges,” he said.

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