Thursday, 25 May 2017

An Olympian challenge for sustainable procurement and user satisfaction

In a drawer beside me I have a suite of NIAAF medals, yes, surprisingly, some years ago I was an international athlete!  The medals have personal memories attached to them; I can remember something of each one of those races even now, over 20 years later.  The medals are also something of a tangible legacy which I have always viewed as worth passing to my children and grandchildren.  When I received them, even though I wouldn't be able to retain my fitness, I never gave a second thought as to whether or not the medals wouldn't be durable.

I never had any illusion of being able to win an Olympic medal but I'm sure those who have done assumed their medals would last the distance.  Now we learn that somewhere in the region of 7% of the Medals awarded at the Rio Olympics are starting to wane. It is somewhat ironic that the medals were celebrated for their sustainability - materials used included recycled silver and industrial waste.

Olympic medals are unlikely to have been included in the high cost/high risk profile but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have been subject to a risk assessment and evaluated on the basis of fitness for purpose. That fitness for purpose should have included something of the users perspective too.  It can only be assumed that evaluation didn't take place or, if it did, wasn't given a great weight. The Rio Olympics procurement has once again become a talking point for all the wrong reasons.  Wouldn't it have been easier to have got it right and managed the reputational risk!

But the damage through this lackluster procurement also casts a shadow over the approach to sustainable procurement - instead of acting as a role model it now will serve as an impediment. Sustainable procurement doesn't need to compromise fitness for purpose and shouldn't.

Perhaps the lessons from this are:

  • Consider the specifications others have used, perhaps through consulting with peers; 
  • Place performance and functionality in the perspective of the user;
  • Consider the risks to functionality in the specification and award criteria;
  • Remember the potential for reputational damage in your risk assessment;
  • Test functionality perhaps in the lab;
  • Don't compromise performance and functionality for the glister of sustainable procurement PR.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Trump's Procurement policy dividend?

Trump and Brexit have certainly reinvigorated the old PEST analysis and no doubt are yielding plenty of university assignments at the present. From a procurement perspective there's plenty to think about.

It's a few months since I last discussed Trump's procurement strategy. Whether it is a clever strategy is yet to be judged but today's New York Times carries a report that Indian company Infosys will take on 10,000 US hires to deliver to US clients.  This is directly linked to Trump's Hire American Policy.  It demonstrates the potential power of procurement, but while it may make short term political sense and play to the gallery, does it really make good business sense?

Clearly Infosys have decided it is expedient to be seen to be doing the right thing and making noises about hiring American.

The reality that non-US companies have been winning contracts in the past suggests that they have had a competitive advantage, most likely to be in price (labour being the main cost) or quality.

Assuming that US staff will not be prepared to work on the same rates as their Indian counterparts delivered on, will that not lead to bid and contract prices rising.  In the service economy, will US citizens and organisations be prepared to pay the additional costs?  Could the US start to see double bids from companies, one US labour based with a parallel non-US based labour price?

Are the necessary skills available in the US market and is there sufficient capacity to match the demand. We are led to believe that Indiana has offered Infosys $500,000 in training funds and tax credits for new jobs. Of course that is attractive but the implication of the need for investment in training is that the skills do not at present exist.  There will be a lead time in training.

Let's assume that some US citizen now takes up the training - will they be handcuffed in some way to remaining in the US or will they find their new qualification is there ticket for seeking out pastures new, in which case is that not a loss to the US?

Of course, it may well be that Infosys' announcement is opportunistic and they would have been hiring local staff anyway.  That would make more sense to me - take the grants, make the announcement and do what you would have done anyway!

While I do think this is a useful example of procurement demand driven policy change, which I have long advocated in terms of sustainable procurement policy, I don't see this as being a clever strategy for the US economy.  Equally, for the average US citizen, I don't think it will create any new job opportunities, but increase their costs.