Saturday, 11 March 2017

Songs of Praise procurement and avoiding unnecessary discord

Outsourcing has now hit the religious broadcasting arm of the BBC and not everyone is singing a happy song.

Some time ago we discussed the BBC's change of weather forecasting provider and the storm of criticism that brought criticism based on whether a non-UK provider could be up to the mark - let's remember that the BBC didn't produce the weather forecasting, merely the transmission of it.

Now the BBC has exposed the production of its flagship 'Songs of Praise' programme to competition, and as a result, it will be outsourced. There does not appear to be any suggestion that the Christian orientated programme will be produced by heretics. No, only that it will not be produced in-house.

Bectu, the union, are "[demanding] better transparency over how this happened"; others fear the loss of specialist expertise in worship broadcasting.

These concerns suggest that perhaps there was a lack of engagement with key stakeholders in the procurement process, and if that was the case, I think that was a mistake. Songs of Praise has built up a strong brand and loyal following since 1961, tampering with that could have been expected to have encountered resistance.

The BBC would be in a stronger position to address criticisms if it had:

  • Agreed with the key Church representatives the outcomes to be delivered from Songs of Praise in the future and how it could be improved;
  • Discussed with Bectu how best to deliver the desired outcomes in the future and provided some opportunity for the in-house provider to match those expectations within an agreed reasonable time;
  • Included Church representatives in the development of its sourcing strategy, development of its award criteria, and tender evaluation;
  • Consulted with Bectu on its proposed sourcing strategy and evaluation model;
  • Thoroughly debriefed all the bidders and Bectu on the outcome of the tendering process.
Big commissioning changes need to be supported by a change management plan if you want harmony at the end.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Is there a lesson for procurement in Tory's forgotten manifesto?

The suggestion that the Chancellor's advisors simply "forgot the manifesto"  may well be a symptom of incompetence or just contempt for previous commitments but it does have lessons for procurement leaders.  First let's think about the purpose of a manifesto - it sets out the basis on which the political party seeks election and says "if you elect us, we'll do this".  It is a bit like a contract commitment with the electorate. It is a commitment, through choice, to pursue a particular strategy. Simply 'forgetting' that policy commitment and strategy is a serious breach of trust.

So what's the 'forgetting the manifesto' lesson for procurement? Well, I have long since stopped being surprised when I find out that procurement staff are oblivious to the higher-level policies, and even their own prior commitments, which are supposed to shape their decisions.  For example, a commitment that all staff complete anti-bribery training - when you ask the staff when they last completed it they were unaware of such a commitment.  Then there's the Fairtrade commitments, the sustainable procurement commitments, prompt payment commitments, .... need I go on? Breach of all these 'policy' commitments represents a reputational risk at the very least.  Let's face it the commitments are rarely made without a lot of deliberation and business case justification.

Many of those commitments are voluntary but there are also statutory commitments - surprisingly there appears to be little external policing of those, for example, the Equality Act, Modern Slavery Act and Bribery Act.

Strange thing is when you interview staff for a position, quite frequently they can trot out all the relevant commitments!

Is this a case of selective memory or perhaps just ignorance? Both could be factors but they are unlikely to be the only causes.

My suggestion to ensure there is no 'forgetting' is that:
  1. Complete an audit to identify and catalogue external and internal commitments;
  2. Embed within risk management, yes, even at the top table;
  3. Raise awareness; 
  4. Ensure no commitments are overlooked through the use of checklists for both strategy and tactical decisions. 
The UK Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer now appear to have to backtrack due to 'forgetting the manifesto' - surely there's a lesson for procurement risk management to make sure there isn't a similar carryover in your organisation.