Microsoft CityNext: The Roadmap to a Smart Future

A little over a year ago we launched CityNext, Microsoft’s people-focused future cities initiative, here in the UK. Since then we have seen tremendous success in helping local authorities up and down the country make their communities more liveable and sustainable places in which to live.

CityNext supports a people-centric approach to tackling the growing challenges of making our cities, towns and regions more educated, modern, safer and healthier. It focuses on transforming the work of government employees, supporting better engagement of citizens, and helping to accelerate innovation for local businesses and skills to help develop a ‘place’ as a whole – and we are already seeing impressive results in places such as Manchester, Glasgow and Norfolk...

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Innovation Through Procurement: Another Magic Formula

Is innovation through procurement just another magic formula that politicians love to have and which civil servants like to feed them? The importance of using public procurement to support economic growth is increasingly asserted by the European Union and the UK government. The new EU Procurement Directive puts emphasis on innovation through procurement. Also, there is an assumption that letting contracts with small to medium enterprises is more likely to deliver innovation than contracts with large companies. So, what is the truth?

Public sector procurement tends to be reactive, reacting to demands on it rather than promoting solutions to problems. For instance, public sector outsourcing tends to be driven by priorities of chief executives, senior officials and ministers. The initiative rarely comes from procurement...

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Leveraging Niche Online Networks for Procurement Professionals

Procurement Week 2015 will cover off a range of procurement issues, from public service innovation, retention and recruitment, to supplier relationships in the private sphere.

While these topics are important in their own right, there’s a common, and perhaps unseen, thread across the board – the power of relationships. The ability to build strong relationships with suppliers, clients and stakeholders can contribute to success within public service innovation, recruitment and the list goes on.

So how can procurement professionals create these sound relationships? Especially when you consider the fact that procurement is a global profession. How can you liaise with stakeholders on the other side of the world? How do you find them and then stay on their radar? ...

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Supporting Marginalised Group Through Procurement

Public procurement is often used to promote various policy objectives other than simply obtaining the required goods or services on the best possible terms. Such objectives range from industrial development to environmental protection and social objectives like equality. The latter objective has resulted in various mechanisms in public procurement supporting suppliers belonging to particular groups or categories in society that are or have been marginalised. Examples include suppliers owned and operated by minority groups, women or the disabled. Christopher McCrudden has famously referred to this practice as “buying social justice” in his book Buying Social Justice – Equality, Government Procurement, and Legal Change (2007 OUP).

The basic rationale behind such schemes is that positive steps in support of these suppliers in the procurement process will result in the economic upliftment of the group. This, in turn, should support the pursuit of equality in society...

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The Map of the Problematique in EU Public Procurement

Ask someone in the private sector what they think about public procurement and more often than not their first complaint is that it is too complex, full of red tape and time consuming. Plus, the State does not know what to buy and how to buy it. From procurers you will get an answer along the lines that they do know what to buy, but if only regulation would allow it to happen!

EU rules are the first in the blame game for the current state of affairs, perceived as they of being an hindrance. Full EU rules are applicable to contracts with a value above certain financial thresholds and yes, they are indeed quite detailed and prescriptive. However, that is only half of the story as they only apply to the top 20% or 50% of contracts by value...

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Serco - Too Much Profit? Not Enough Profit?

How many public procurement people spotted the irony* in the announcements from Serco recently?

Here was one of the biggest outsourced service providers to the public sector announcing a £1.5 billion asset write-down, another profit warning, a suspended dividend, and an appeal for £550 million cash for shareholders to keep themselves afloat.

And here’s the irony – on one hand, this is a firm that the Cabinet Office asked National Audit Office to look at in detail last year to see if they were making excess profits from government contracts. That was driven by the controversy over tagging contracts for the Ministry of Justice, where Serco and G4S were found to have over-charged the department...

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The Sky's The Limit... So, Raise the Bar!

For the last 20 years, I have recruited professionals across the corporate spectrum and in 2004, an opportunity arose to enter unknown territory, to help spearhead a dedicated recruitment service for the Procurement profession. I recall being fascinated at the time and I was eager to understand the new world I was soon to become immersed in.

Here I am 11 years later, Business Development Director for CPS Group, still focussing on recruiting into the Procurement Industry and sharing some of my thoughts and observations to an audience of eminent Procurement professionals. It didn’t strike me at the start as being the most dynamic career but I soon realised I could not have been more wrong and now understand that this is one of the most exciting and rewarding career paths.

After all, how many careers offer such a diverse pathway which can include the opportunity to affect a company’s overall strategy and receive recognition from the CEO for the added value you bring? ...                              

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Developing Countries: Innovative Procurement Strategies & Challenges

At a recent lecture at the LSE called “Formality Bias: the habits holding Africa back”, Dayo Olopade, Nigerian-American journalist and author, explored some ingenious workarounds that are driving regional progress in Africa.

They included: a data mapping application called Ushahidi (Swahili for witness) that allowed Kenyans that witnessed violence to report its location, to allow for order to be restored and relief services to be provided; informal public transport provision using mutatus and other small vehicles; Dahabshiil money transfer services to Somalia (and the better-known M-Pesa); the construction of toilet and showering facilities using a biodigester in Gatwekera (Kenya), to replace the traditional “flying toilet” (– description available for the robust on Google).

Olopade noted that many of these schemes had grown out of (often justified) distrust in formal institutions and governments, and necessity had indeed been the mother of invention...

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The 9 Habits of Highly Effective Procurement Organisations

There's a well-kept secret fuelling the profitability and growth of the world's most successful companies, and it exists within your company, too. It's the procurement team. However, the procurement teams at companies like Colgate-Palmolive, Intel and Nestle do not resemble a typical procurement department. So what sets them apart from their peers? They deliver hard-hitting financial performance that improves operating margins, returns, and earning-per-share every quarter.

From aligning procurement's deliverables with top business goals to understanding exactly what needs to change in procurement to drive financial results, there are several habits that organisations can establish to encourage effective procurement practices that result in value generation for the company as a whole.

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