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Joining up

Sunday September 20th, 2009

In the fourth in a series of articles, Ian Conner from Southwest One speaks to GO about how it felt to win in the Other category of last year’s SOPO Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Procurement.

Southwest One is a unique joint venture company, consisting of Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Avon and Somerset Police Authority and IBM. The company was set up to deliver and transform a range of front and back office services, including human resources, finance, procurement, ICT, property services, and customer services. It is a pioneering venture within a framework, which will allow other authorities in the South West to access these services.

In line with the partnership objectives, Southwest One is proposing to transform the strategic procurement function, which is aimed at securing and delivering efficient services and driving out cashable savings estimated in excess of £140 million over ten years.

The company aims to do this by creating a new collaborative procurement organisation which is sustainable over the ten years, and creating a greater focus on supply chain and inventory management. Southwest One is also deploying an up-skilling programme (capability accelerator) to improve performance, develop strong leadership and increase capacity by employing a Chief Procurement Officer and five Category Managers.

Southwest One will also roll out category management across all spend areas through the use of cross-organisation teams which will engage the entire procurement community within all three organisations. It is hoped this will harness purchasing power through collaboration with SMEs, the supply base and the wider Southwest One area. The company will also deploy world-class technology, including SAP, e-sourcing, contract management, spend analysis, supplier relationship management and inventory management. 

Procurement efficiencies will underpin the whole Southwest One transformation over the ten-year period of the contract, and as such are in the first wave of transformation projects. While work has started on all of the above modules, the key focus for the first 12 months of the contract has been on the introduction of the Tactical Procurement Programme and the introduction of category management.

The successful application of these two IBM-proven models has successfully involved an organisation-wide review and subsequent formulation of sourcing strategies for the first wave of category management plans. This has resulted in savings of over £1.6 million being signed off by the end of July 2008 and further savings of approximately £62 million by March 2009. Key factors in the success of this programme include the introduction of evidence-based procurement (benefits tracking), strong leadership (through the Procurement Steering Group and benefits review programme), teamwork, communication, project management and critical thinking (all facilitated by the category management programmes). This first phase of procurement transformation is truly forming the cornerstone of the total Southwest One programme.

The category management programme continues apace with the phase one categories having now been signed off; the resultant solutions are being implemented to contribute to the forecast savings. In January 2009 Southwest One started work on the second phase of category plans focusing on IT, waste, transport and marketing.

Being a new organisation, Southwest One was particularly excited to be recognised as winner in the Other category at the 2008 SOPO Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Procurement. Winning this award at such an early stage in the organisation’s history added further credibility to Southwest One’s procurement modernisation programme.

We are delighted that this groundbreaking change in our operating procedures has been recognised so quickly. The achievements of Southwest One are good news for all Somerset council tax payers.

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