Procurement is a process – buying is an output

HEA STEM: Procurement Frameworks; Learning and teaching issues and solutions for contemporary practice

Over thirty delegates from a cross section of academia, post graduate part time students, construction professionals and client organisations (NHS) were brought together at a HEA STEM funded workshop to explore the learning and teaching issues surrounding Procurement, with a focus on the importance of employer engagement and real life case study evidence leading to better engagement and enhanced student experience in Higher Education .

The seminar was focussed on Procurement Practice in the construction industry. The academic members of staff presented their real experiences of procurement practice from an SME perspective whilst leading professionals offered their contractor and client side perspectives on procurement practice with an excellent case study presentation of by the Olympic Delivery Authority as an exemplar case study of best practice procurement. 

The event started with an overview of the HEA and potential funding streams available and continued with the academic perspective of procurement practice within the construction sector with evidence from both cutting edge sme research and engagement to practitioner case study presentations from the Olympic Delivery Authority and the NHS Procure21

David Woolley acting as the chair for the seminar, guided delegates through a series of presentations encouraging and facilitating debate and discussion. 

The Procurement Conference  examined the issues in procurement and construction in particular and how this might better inform Higher Education’s approaches to supporting new graduates and post graduates in this ‘post Latham and Egan reports’ world. 

To do this practical research and exemplar case studies were presented to inform debate and discussion. Research included examining the actual experience of tier 2 & 3 suppliers in framework bidding and exemplar cases studies included the remarkable Olympic Park Construction Project presented by Head of Procurement on the programme Paul Dickinson from the Olympic Delivery Authority.

Cliff Jones demonstrated the principles he’d employed in the delivery of the NHS’s Procure21 approach.

What was clear is that the team working and supply chain integration proposed by Latham and Egan have enjoyed much support and variability in execution. A variance that sees world class examples like he Olympic programme and some efforts more reminiscent of what went before and inspired the White papers in the first instance. 

This discussion made the challenge and content required of Higher Education more clear. Partnering and supply chain perspectives it seems need to include the fundamental principles that lead to those contractual behaviours and not simply new (however clever) processes. 

Much was suggested around negotiation development and in particular the development of interest based negotiation (a problem solving approach) rather than positional bargaining which might be making the situation worse. 

Advantages accruing from integrated supply chain initiatives, so called “intelligent procurement” place great demands on disparate interacting teams to work collaboratively together and put in contract arrangements that facilitate that.  Clearly suggesting this becomes a consultative negotiation and not a “one person buys something” activity. 

Holding on to that idea in a testing project requires much understanding and a broader strategic perspective. It was agreed that the content of Higher Education courses in these professional areas needs to include: collaborative problem solving; interest based negotiation; strategic perspective; supply chain management principles. 

This learning from this HEA workshop will be taken forwards in the form of a collection of resources for both Academics and Student audiences which will be available to be accessed online This event formed part of a Higher Education Academy Special Interest Group which has been set up with specific outputs to deliver :

–       Develop practionner case studies of best practice on Frameworks/ Procurement Practice

–       Gather resources from the Procurement seminar and post online as resources for both lecturers and students (video footage Procurement Frameworks; Learning and teaching issues and solutions for contemporary practice  Video )

–       Create an online open Knowledge Exchange platform for the sharing of best practice and information (Via Linkedin and CKE Procure Blog  )

Outputs form this Special Interest group will be presented to the Higher Education Academy towards the end of July. We will look to continue the work of this Special Interest Group with continued support from academics and practionners across the UK , with regular thought pieces to be published online around the theme of Procurement Best Practice to be used as a resource for students , academic staff and construction professionals .

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