FirstGroup has won the franchise for the West Coast main line, the most lucrative service in the UK. Their success has come as a blow to Virgin Trains who previously had a monopoly over the line for 15 years. For those outside the UK, this may not mean a huge amount (though those same people may still be familiar with Richard Branson), but the quirks of the bidding process have some interesting lessons that go beyond a rail dispute.
For many, web-based trading is the future for public sector procurement. While it seems inevitable in some sense that e-procurement will be more accepted as a way of doing efficient, governable public sector purchasing, the recent recognition by the European Commission signals an important step.
On the 1 June, a UK parliamentary body published a report on the use of government procurement cards (GPCs). These payment cards were introduced in 1997 as a cost effective way for government bodies to make low value purchases.
There has been much written and spoken about the best backgrounds for success as a procurement chief. There has been less written about the kinds of other careers a background in procurement could lead to. There have been some stunning examples in the past, such as the elevation at Chrysler in the late 1990s of CPO Thomas Stallkamp to the positions of company president and vice chairman of the board. His promotion showed the respect a thoroughly professional procurement executive could command even in the roughest of companies. I was thinking of that when I read in the newspaper, TheBoston Globe, recentlyof the elevation of another procurement executive to a somewhat less lofty but nevertheless important position in a very competitive organization.
It turns out that living side by side with economic superpowers, emerging or otherwise, causes friction. Though at the moment there's a lot of careful wording being deployed, this week has seen the question of how Europe will respond to perceived protectionism in several key foreign markets blown wide open.
Horror-film fans may remember that iconic line from the 1986 movie Poltergeist II - The Other Side, spoken by a little girl who discovers demons have returned.Recentactions in the US Congress show that the line could also apply to government budget debates, often scary themselves. Some politicians are trying to break the budget deal that avoided a government shutdown last August and cut another $20bn from the agreement. One result would be less money for the states, which could be forced to once again slash the services they and their cities and towns provide, including public safety and education. Big cities are particularly unstable. That nightmare is the perfect scenario for government procurement officials to show their worth and come to the rescue.
The world is on fire. The financial markets are teetering. Confronted with this kind of environment, now would surely not be the appropriate time to boast about achievements? In fact, that kind of thinking is bogging down business and functions and we’re seeing that forward-thinking companies are prepared to shout about what they’re doing well.
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