Monday, 27 August 2018

GDPR Guide for Small Businesses

Here is our guide on GDPR for small businesses; we hope you find it useful.  If you have any questions, or would like a pdf version of the shots below please don't hesitate to get in touch with Sam Alford at

PPP Management - Technical Authorship

Another great edition of Building Regulations in Brief by PPP Management's Sam Alford, in conjunction with Raymond Tricker.  Another best seller in the range.

Building Regulations in Brief - Amazon

To accompany the in-brief version is a more compact and on site friendly pocket book.

Building Regulations Pocket Book - Amazon

Another two best sellers in the range.
#BRIB #Buildingregulations

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Building Procurement on Solid Foundations

The four step stage detailed above is a methodical way to create a Procurement function or undertake a review of the efficacy of the supply chain.

Procurement - Which hat to wear today?

I wrote this article in early 2017 earlier in the year and it was published in February's (2017) edition of In-tend's In-procurement magazine.  Little has changed in the last 12 months; albeit the need for Procurement to generate more value for the business has gained greater prominence.
Many people, and indeed many colleagues, believe that procurement is just a matter of buying things, and as people buy items every day everyone is therefore a procurement expert; if only that was the case. Aligning the different, and often disparate, views of stakeholders is not easy; neither is resolving the many pre-determined concepts – value, brand, immediacy, future proofing. So delivering a successful outcome for all concerned is no easy task.
Over the Christmas and New Year period I was fortunate enough to have some time off work and during this period watched, with the family, some of the Harry Potter films. For those familiar films you will recall that there is a magical hat that sorts new pupils at the school into respective houses on compatibility grounds. The use of the sorting hat reminded me of the challenge facing procurement professionals on a daily basis; principally “which roles will I need to do today”, (business strategy enabler, project manager, change champion, contract manager, internal arbitrator, subject matter expert or general trouble shooter); the use of a sorting hat to help us would be extremely useful. The sorting hat in Harry Potter only had to make one decision per pupil a procurement sorting hat would need to make multiple decisions many times a day.
Business strategy enabler - whether driving the organisational strategy through procuring capability or enabling strategy through driving financial benefits the procurement specialist has a key role to play. Procuring new capability to help drive the organisational change agenda often has a more complex subset of procurement strategy questions and challenges. Driving financial benefits through the delivery of savings against baseline costs has two discrete issues. Firstly, at some point the lowest price will be achieved and there are no further savings to be achieved. Secondly, a savings driven procurement approach needs to be balanced with the needs of the business. A rush for the cheapest and less able solution has the potential to restrict the business and in the long term prove to be more expensive.
Project manager – Procurement is the embodiment of project management. Time, stakeholder, supplier and finance management are all integral to the procurement function. The concepts remain the same but the complexity changes as the procurement complexity changes. Time management, whether for a simple product or service contract renewal or procurement event will have a required implementation date and associated lead times. As the complexity of the requirement and number of third parties increases so does the procurement resource, skill and planning needed to deliver in accordance with the business requirement. Adopting a traditional waterfall style approach or using agile methodologies procurement can help move effectively through the stages. Managing the internal stakeholders especially where time is critical or under estimated often casts the procurement specialist as the villain of the piece. Fielding the questions of “How quickly can this be achieved?” is often a race to the shortest delivery period which, when short cuts are taken, will result in a curtailment in due diligence – act in haste repent in leisure. The procurement specialist needs to defend their requirement for suitable for due diligence otherwise when the post contract award activity starts to go wrong the accusations will firmly be pointed towards procurement.
Change champion – Once the contract is awarded and passed to the ‘business as usual’ function unless suitable mobilisation and support has been provided then all respective questions will be asked of procurement. Procurement has the opportunity (subject to time and resourcing) to generate contract manuals for the part of the business that will be in receipt of the outputs of the contract. Procurement are ideally placed to help the business mobilise correctly and take a pro-active position in the business.
Contract manager – Often with large contracts the business will mobilise specific contract managers. This is particularly the case with construction contracts, where claims, compensation events and sign-offs are required. When I say contract managers I don’t mean the element of the business that is benefitting from the output of the service. These colleagues are interested in what is being provided by the supplier and not the contractual compliance of the supplier’s provision. The contract manager is the one who will hold the supplier to account on behalf of the internal customer.
Internal arbitrator – Always caught in the middle. The procurement specialist has the unenviable position of arbitrating between the aspirations of the business and the constraints of the budget setters. The business users seek the best outcome regardless of price, always wanting the best but without recognition of the financial impact. The opposite position is often held by the financial controllers who expect maximum returns for the least (if not no) financial outlay. Caught in the middle, and again liable to being viewed as the villain in the piece, the procurement professional treads a challenging line. Market research and supplier engagement involving both the user and financial communities is a really effective way of demonstrating to both internal parties the real market conditions. This helps not only in setting expectations, but also produces credible specifications and budgets. Working with both parties to achieve the most suitable yet cost effective solution for the business presents the procurement function in a positive light and illustrates demonstrable value while building credibility.
Subject matter expert – All roads lead to Rome. Despite my opening comment that everyone perceives themselves as ‘shopping’ experts and therefore are de facto procurement specialists inevitably all questions about the process and the outcomes, rightly are fielded by the procurement lead. There are a myriad of questions at the beginning of the process, such as: “How will we deliver this?”, “What’s the procurement strategy?”, “How long will it take?”, “How much will it cost?” The questions change in tone and type during the procurement process depending on how things are progressing. When faced with quotes that exceed the budget the reliance upon the procurement function increases, “How are we going to afford this?”, “It’s going to take longer; how can we speed up the process?” Using the specification and the well-crafted (by the procurement function) tender documents, including the pricing matrix, the business can help shape an affordable solution at the appropriate time.
Troubleshooter – If we all had a penny for each time we had been approached by colleague with a problem with an implementation or service delivery experiencing difficulties we would all be very wealthy. Way too often after contracts are awarded the next action is for the business is to lock them away in the belief they will never be referred to or enforced. Taking such an optimistic approach nearly always comes back to bite. Called upon to see a way through problematic situations is very much the remit and specialist area of the procurement professional. Involved both in negotiating and drafting the contract who else would be better placed to understand each parties’ rights and obligations? Seeing both sides of the same coin and having built a relationship with the other party during the procurement phase, through the adoption of a reasonable approach , the procurement specialist is ideally placed to help resolve issues and is really the last stop before the legal function is relied upon to resolve impasse.
Procurement is so much more than merely purchasing. The skills needed are business wide and once honed help the procurement professional to be at the beating heart of the business. Delivering advice, support and tangible financial value.

Agile Procurement - Fundamental Changes Required

If you see the supplier as the enemy - then agile is not for you, stop reading now. If you see the contract as a tool with which to beat the supplier - then agile is not for you, stop reading now. If you are focussed on savings and achieving the lowest possible price - then agile is not for you, stop reading now.
However, if you see the buyer/supplier relationship as a collaboration (within bounds) – then agile could work for you. If the contract is a means to measure business benefit then agile could well work for you; and, if delivering true value to the business is a key agenda then maybe the rest of this article could work for you.
From a Procurement perspective there are three factors that must be addressed before progressing with an agile agenda: Stakeholders, Capability and Suppliers. All three of these factors are integral to moving to an agile methodology; exclusion of any of these will make the move to agile very difficult, if not impossible.
Stakeholders – A new way of thinking required
Procurement and Finance have always looked towards fixed cost models for contracts in the belief that this will deliver to scope against an agreed cost with risk reduced as much as possible. Fixed cost contracts will not deliver cost certainty if the contracting organisation is unable to manage its obligations or risks outside of contract develop. Risk and uncertainty are always included in a pricing premium for fixed cost contracts. Developing a tight and accurate scope should move any organisation away from a fixed model to a time and material contract structure.
Waterfall delivery based on a fixed cost basis and milestones helps delivery a final output that matches a fixed scope, i.e. output based. The use of standalone milestones in a technology development environment will often fail to be cognisant of recognising previous milestones. However, an iterative test and accept process broken down into discreet packages ensures that all stages are not only fit for purpose but work together, i.e. outcome based. 
Getting stakeholders comfortable with moving to a discreet stage (sprint) on a time and material basis will only work if the work is undertaken upfront to identify what capability will be delivered and how this capability can be measured against business outcomes. Delivering to stated and recognised business outcomes will give stakeholders the opportunity to become satisfied that the development is progressing as anticipated. Should the incremental delivery fail to stand on its feet and meet the business outcomes then the organisation has the ability to unilaterally cease further development, something that would not be possible under a fixed cost contract.
Capability – A new toolset
Embarking on agile will require a different approach than traditional waterfall projects. The use of mixed (contracting authority and supplier) multi-disciplinary teams is essential if agile is going to be successful; this will include representatives from Procurement, Finance, User (aka) the business and Project Delivery. A key tenet of agile is timely decision making; the need for suitably empowered teams are key to ensuring that delivery is completed in line with the delivery schedule. Each development sprint is bounded by time, cost and quality (for quality this can be interpreted as product capability); there should be no need to seek wider business approvals outside of the delivery team construct. Acting in a team construct, with full team member participation, will greatly aid timely decision making.

Suppliers – Or partners?
How an organisation views its relationship with their suppliers is fundamental as to whether agile procurement will ever work for the organisation. Having identified this trait for the organisation it’s equally applicable to the supplier and whether they view their customers as partners or cash cows.
An organisation that focuses on the bottom line as the key driver in all negotiations and that negotiations are win-lose activities will struggle to grasp agile and the necessary behaviours. Recognising the importance of the services being contracted for should help an organisation take a suitable approach to the supplier and realisation that this significant business endeavour, often delivering competitive advantage is too important to be run on an adversarial approach. Adding value not seeking cheapness is key.
The table above lists the attributes of organisations who could adopt an agile approach and expect to be successful in the endeavour and those whose inherent nature would be incompatible for the successful adoption of agile.
For those organisations that focus on the spectrum of pre and post contract award the adoption of an agile approach is that supplier relationship management is an inherent element of agile deployment.
Understanding the need for a collaborative approach, both with internal stakeholders and with suppliers, and the need to have the right skills across a combined team are essential. There is a need for both collaboration and capability; a strong attribute in one cannot offset a notable or total lack in the other. A greater mix of both attributes provides the potential for agile to work.

Does Agile Procurement Exist

Agile Procurement means many different things to many people and following the old adage “You can please some of the people some of the time….” Almost certainly means that there will be difference of opinions. Perhaps some definitions of agile /Agile would be a good place to start; oh dear, there’s already disagreement over the capitalisation of the first letter.
The Oxford Dictionaries  defines agile as “Able to move quickly and easily” and “Relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.”
Agile as a business term follows on from the concept of lean engineering and can trace a lineage back to lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System in the late 1940s. Based on a system underpinned by process, tools and training it allows organisations to respond quickly to customer needs and market changes while still controlling costs and quality.
Taking the modern approach I Googled what is the definition of agile methodologies? and it gave a multitude of different responses. A number of the responses called out the relationship with software development, the associated complexity and the need for flexibility. Perhaps the authoritative document, the Manifesto for Agile Software Development could be a good starting point.
The three definitions and related source documents are useful to gain a broader understanding of agile ways. A key element that recurs whether it’s source information for the second or third definition is the need for collaborative working. Without collaborative working there can be no agility. Collaborative working, with both internal and external suppliers and active vendor management (we can talk about the benefits of Supplier Relationship management another time), provides the backbone for successful outcomes. Good behaviours and working towards positive outcomes are the only ways Agile working can stand a chance of success.
To raise the blood pressure of all procurement professionals let’s take the statement from above, “it allows organisations to respond quickly to customer needs and market changes”, Many organisations will just see that this is an opportunity to change the scope. What it really means is that the scope has been suitably developed to enable changes without being prescriptive. All procurement systems should allow for flexibility, even legally regulated regimes. If there is uncertainty why use a contract when a framework would enable suitable commercial friction and equality of evaluation without becoming prescriptive and restrictive?
So we’ve got the principles out of the way. Just to clarify, are we talking about undertaking procurement in an agile way? Or are we talking about procuring agile services? Addressing the first, let’s not get hung up on language about waterfall or agile sprints; all projects, regardless of what they are, have activities that follow other activities. It’s time to understand tasks (or user stories), complexity, resource and duration; the procurement professional is always asked, “How long will that take?” I always give two answers; the first a quantifiable duration, predicated upon timely engagement and responses from the business and the second, a lot less helpful, is “Depends, on how you support it”. So, with the right procurement knowledge, business engagement and support the procurement elements can be conducted akin to agile sprints; but for the agile purist they may well always be viewed as waterfall.
When undertaking the procurement of agile services it’s essential to look at both pre and post contract. Delivering the signed agreement will take significant effort to sufficiently detail the initial sprints (and total number of sprints) correctly. Perhaps the greatest challenge to both the business and procurement professionals is recognising the time & materials approach to contracting in Agile. We shouldn’t forget that a time & materials approach where the scope/ outputs are known and the sprints have been planned should see the elimination of the risk premium often priced into Fixed Cost contracts. Living with an agile delivery post contract award is nigh on impossible if the contracting party is not set up to work in agile way culturally, mentally or geographically. Transferring an agile contract over to the business cannot merely take a brief handover and walk away approach it will need embedding in the Business as Usual function and the time to embed the processes to ensure future success.
Ideally, the above gives an insight into some thinking behind an agile approach to Procurement and the possibility to optimise procurement; providing an opportunity for the elimination of waste in the process. The ability to procure agile services is certainly possible and the above provides some pointers for those considering an agile approach to consider.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

E-procurement checklist

The principles that govern the delivery of good procurement are applicable to the use of e-procurement.  However, it is really important to recognise that technology of itself will not ensure an improved service but there are principles that need to be followed to ensure the benefits offered through the use of e-procurement can be delivered.  In our checklist we identify ten principles that will help in the digital transformation of your procurement that will yield significant benefits.

  • Check that the activity fits with your strategy.  Just because it is technology based it doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. E-procurement offers significant benefits over traditional methods of procurement but it might not fit with the culture of the organisation, the particular supplier base or even the procurement requirement.
  • Check the IT proficiency of your supplier base and that they have suitable connectivity.  Different sectors embrace technology differently checking suppliers’ reluctance or acceptance of technology will influence your overall approach to an e-procurement process or the engagement process during the tender stage.
  • Create an online workspace (with suitable permissions) for the procurement activity and use this to store and share information. 
  • Develop a timeline or ‘project plan’ for the procurement activity and store this in the collaborative workspace.
  • Before embarking on the procurement activity check that you have all the necessary authorisations.  The specification is signed off by the empowered person, that budgetary allocation is available (if the exercise is to garner estimates and there is no firm intention to purchase then make this explicit to the suppliers in the documentation) and that the individual responsible for overseeing the delivery agrees to the schedule.  All of these authorisations should be stored in the collaborative workspace.
  • Ensure that you have a communications plan in place to engage the suppliers.  It is really important to make sure suppliers submit bids for the right thing, there is the room for misinterpretation engagement will reduce this risk.  Whilst e-procurement provides the opportunity to communicate electronically you may wish to meet suppliers or host a ‘meet the buyer’ event prior to the procurement event.  To save time and costs consider holding a webinar event as a ‘digital meet the buyer’ event.  Always reply to queries but be mindful of not benefitting one supplier over others through accidentally giving away information. Remember to close out the procurement event when it is concluded.
  • Remember that using an e-procurement tool allows you to share much more information and communicate it than by issuing, via e-mail, individual tender packs.  Provide as much information as possible through your e-procurement tool. Don’t be afraid to issue further information if it becomes available – although carefully consider the implications to the timelines before doing so.
  • During the tender period there is the potential to access the e-procurement tool to view which suppliers have accepted the event, downloaded the detail and uploaded submissions, without viewing the submissions themselves.  Understanding the level of engagement can afford you, without compromising the event to offer suppliers in guidance in uploading documents or merely, through a general enquiry, to give a gentle reminder as to the closing date and the need to upload before then.
  • Make sure that as part of the planning process that a back-up plan is created and consider what extensions of time, if any, should be considered in the eventuality that one is required. Remember, the use of technology may not be intuitive to some suppliers and what we are trying to achieve is a competitive event rather than a de-selection of suppliers due to lack of technology competence.
  • Once the event is complete download the information from the e-procurement tool into the collaborative area.  Once all the records and information have been collated locking the collaborative folder will provide a single auditable repository of the procurement event’s history.