Frank Tudor - Developing Relationships in Procurement

Are an entrepreneurial approach, calculated risk-taking and strong relationships essential to procurement, even in the public sector? Frank Tudor believes so.

In the latest issue of B Procurement, the Head of Procurement at Transport for Greater Manchester has outlined the wide-ranging remit handled by his 11-strong team. This covers all third-party spend, of around £365 million per year, within TfGM.  This includes not only many of the systems that help people walk, cycle, train and bus around the region, but also the ambitions of the elected Mayor for Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. You can read Frank’s interview in B Procurement here.

Below, Frank discusses the relationships and attitudes helping to move an aspiring regional brief forward.

Risk taking

Frank said: “I inherited a fully formed function in 2016, but we’ve refined significantly over the last 15 months.  The big opportunity lies in changing the dynamic of how procurement works within the business.  I regard myself as quite entrepreneurial, I want to work out how we can do stuff rather than take the position of ‘no you can’t do that, you need to do it this way.’ That means you’ve got to take risks at various times.

Relationships

“Procurement serves every part of the business, from tram tracks to paperclips.  At TfGM we deliver next to nothing ourselves. We have staff in bus stations, but the Metrolink system is under a ten-year contract to KeolisAmey and shuttle buses are run by First Group.  Almost all our IT delivery is through external parties. We’re effectively an organisation that runs third party contracts which are extraordinarily complex, strategic partnerships with a lot of dependencies.

“We’ve got an immensely supportive set of executive and non-executive Directors who are absolutely behand the value that procurement delivers. This makes my life significantly easier. I’ve made it a key part of my role that they understand where I’m coming from, my somewhat entrepreneurial approach to procurement, my keenness to take risk, although not needless risks, and ultimately drive a lot more value into TFGM.

“A big part of my work is making sure the entire stakeholder base, from junior level upwards, understands it is managing those contracts and helping procurement to get the best possible deal when we go to market.

Encountering resistance

“I think it’s one of the truisms of procurement that it is too often seen as a bureaucratic process and people don’t want particularly to engage with that. Part of my role is to try to overcome that objection.  When you’re looking at individuals to work on a tender, for example if you’re working on a replacement bus service tender, then people need to make time to come and support that exercise. Ultimately, it’s not my contract. I’m working on behalf of the business.  A lot of the resistance that I’ve found has been just taking people out of their role to do the job necessary to support procurement.

“The opposite is also true, when you come across stakeholders who are aware of the value that procurement can offer. That’s an area of great support. They want their best people working on contracts, shaping future requirements and innovation with the market place.  That’s ultimately where we drive the value from. It’s not just a case of retendering the latest widget and hoping for the better price.

“We have a reasonably strong compliance regime here. If people aren’t willing to come on that journey we can red card them, if needs be. That’s a weapon of last resort. All areas of spend need to go through me and every PO greater than £10k must be signed off by me or one of my team.

Public v private sector

“Public expenditure, quite rightly, is underpinned by a set of laws to ensure fairness, probity and transparency.  You need to be less so to all of those in the private sector, however a procurement organisation that is good quality, can do and delivery focused, in public or private sector, will have the same agenda to deliver.

“Public sector is more rules based. We must publicly advertise in an open forum. We can’t just say ‘I want these five suppliers to come and bid for this £1million contract’, which is typically what we would do in the private sector.  While each is different in terms of the process, the end point of an affordable, value adding, goods or services contract, is exactly the same.

“It’s easy within the public sector to say ‘I’m totally hamstrung by the regulations, therefore I’ve just got to run the process as it’s absolutely laid down’ but making sure that you open up requirements, so that you bring new entrants in to bid for goods or services, means you need to be quite entrepreneurial. You need to reach out to suppliers.  A really important step is to know your market place long before going out to market.  I have to make sure requirements are socialised and developed internally so that not only incumbent suppliers, but new and up and coming SMEs, find a way in to delivering the goods and services you want to offer.

Key skills

“You’ve got to have the foundations of the technical aspects of procurement.  However, I’m proud that everyone on my team knows more about procurement regulations than I do.  It’s not my job to know all the individual clauses of the regulations.  My role means giving the team the leadership and the space to do what they need to do.

“Collaboration is key to the success of TFGM.  We are slightly different. There aren’t many items that we buy that other organisations have.  So, no other organisation buys or acquires bus services.  However, we, Fire and Police – all part of the GM Family, buy tyres, fuels and cleaning services. It’s trying to work across organisations to make sure that, while we all buy different things, we can work-forward strategies so that we can get the best possible value in shared categories.

Mentors

“I’ve been lucky.  I’ve had some extraordinarily great managers.  They include three former presidents of the CIPS, David Smith (DWP), Peter Smith (DSS & consultancy assignments) and Kim Godwin (Barclays Bank). You learn lots with people who are absolutely at the pinnacle of their profession.”

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Frank Tudor, Head of Procurement at Transport for Greater Manchester

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