The positives and negatives of austere times

2 May 2012
Rebecca Ellinor, managing editor, Supply ManagementWhile everyone at yesterday’s Office Depot Strategic Thinking Forum in London agreed procurement and facilities management professionals (to which the event was directed) have got a higher profile as a result of the recession, there was a concern that the focus on cuts means best practice and long-term strategy would be lost. This is a risk of course, and certainly the focus is on saving money, but with a more austere climate now in it’s fourth year, I would argue that continuing to be able to cut costs does require strategic thinking. And as panel member FM World editor Martin Read pointed out, in terms of facilities management it has definitely led to some “ingenious things being done in waste management and fascinating work in flexible working”. And there were more positive observations from other members of the panel. Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis said economic circumstances were forcing people to think differently and said when you want to fundamentally redesign services you have to engage procurement teams, which can lead to better outcomes. Office Depot’s head of procurement Matthew Smith said he was relishing the work he was able to do and hoping increased focus on his team would enable it to help with revenue generation and strategy in the future. And finally, procurement director Joe Pitman repeated the word of caution: “Procurement’s in the spotlight, the challenge is to make sure we move the profession on and don’t fall back into tactical behaviour.”
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