West Mercia Police: Procurement for the People (2023)

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Oshopping transformationthe conversation is often examined through the lens of the private sector. The acquisition, in this context, seeks to enable greater efficiencies, unlock innovation, drive digitalization and drive cost savings for the bottom line. But reducing acquisitions to such rigid terms and focusing only on the private sector is reductive. Where cost savings and providing the best cost and value will continue to be the primary function of procurement, doing so in the public sector, where end users are the public and value is represented by protecting a local community is what defines the acquisition for West Mercian. Police.

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West Mercia Police (WMP) is the territorial police force for Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin in the United Kingdom. With a shared population of 1.19 million people, West Mercia Police is the fourth largest police area in England and Wales. In September 2020, West Mercia Police embarked on a major procurement journey, which would indeed see procurement come to the fore and align with all key stakeholders within the organisation.

Simply put, the pivotal role of procurement in supporting the police force was about to step into the spotlight, and for that, you needed someone to lead the ride, someone with a fresh perspective, and perhaps what More importantly, someone who had significant industry experience. transformation of contracting in the private sector. WMP was not only looking to redefine its procurement function, but was also undergoing a major business transformation to become a much more modern, agile and responsive police force that was also an efficient, commercially viable and fit-for-purpose police property.

Jon Strelitz was hired as Head of Contracts and Procurement, drawing on his significant purchasing experience with ENGIE. A key part of his mission was to promote better infrastructure and development for Western Mercia officials and staff to reach their potential, delivering value for money to the public and building a network of partners, public agencies and the third sector who work together with the police to provide a safer western Mercia.

“Like any organization, we have functional support, in terms of services and what we deliver to our customers, our communities,” he says. “We are a support function that provides professional support to the organization in terms of business services and purchasing. This covers spend categories such as fleet, ICT, facility management, financial services, uniforms and equipment, human resources, [traditional and digital] expertise, healthcare, custodial, and start-up work. “It supports the company in complying with public procurement rules, which ensures governance and transparency in terms of how we award contracts to our suppliers.”

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One of the biggest challenges acquisition professionals have faced over the past decade in driving organizational change is a lack of understanding of what acquisitions can bring. Whether in the public or private sector, the biggest challenge of acquisitions has been storytelling, so when we hear about "having a seat at the table" it's a huge leap in the right direction for the role. The way to get there, however, is not that simple. Shopping knows how to shop, but does anyone else? And how do you convince a legacy-laden organization that this new vision of acquisition is right for the business?

Rachel Hartland Lane, Director of Business Services, believes there was a certain "mystique" about acquisitions prior to this current journey. “Many times, the acquisition came too late in terms of talks,” she says. “An afterthought rather than fully building it into our business case and making sure we build those efficiencies in early on to maximize the market and get the best value out of it,” she says. “We are on a journey, but we are not there yet. I think we are starting to demystify purchasing in the organization so that people understand the value that purchasing can add to their business.”

This is a journey built around people who understand the value they can really bring to the organization. Jon talks about how a strategy doesn't have a starting or ending point. He evolves as he progresses, and he was eager to help people evolve along with him against the overall WMP strategy. For Clare Griffiths, Director of Forensic Acquisitions, this evolution is a top-down evolution, not just an acquisition. “It's about getting everyone involved. It's not just about the people shopping or the people who work in purchasing,” she says. “Everyone has to be involved, from budget managers to field officers. They need to be aware of what the acquisition really means and how it may affect their role.”

This notion of understanding what sourcing is and what it can do not only for the business as a collective, but also for each person's role is important to Jon and his team. During his time in the private sector, the fast pace meant that there was a constant process of winning or losing contracts, mobilizing and demobilizing, or implementing new ideas, concepts or objectives along with drivers from all areas of the business. Without a competent and well-structured purchasing team, all this would fall apart. While public sector procurement is different in some places, this complex ecosystem is a shared challenge.

As Wendy Hancock, Director of Purchasing, says: “Given the transformation of our business and the work we did there, without the purchase, things would have become very complicated very quickly. People would not know what the correct processes were, which would cause significant headaches. People know their own roles, but they don't know others', and this is often the case with shopping. With Jon's arrival and the strategy we have, many more people are aware of what we do and the benefits we can bring."

Any acquisition professional will tell you that a journey of this nature is simply not possible without having the right people and the right skills, equipped with the right tools, to make it happen and continue to push acquisitions ever higher to support even more. the organization With WMP, Jon has been blessed with an incredible team of procurement professionals who not only believed in this transformative journey, but also truly believed in procurement and what they can do to support policing, enabling local communities feel much safer and protected.

When driving change, particularly in a role that seeks to better align with all areas of the organization, the importance of collaboration and communication cannot be underestimated. We hear about acquisition transformations being spurred by the arrival of a new CPO and outlining the way forward for the business, and while Jon fits the description, he himself admits that's not his vision. He's not even his boss. “It's ours, it's the team's strategy,” he says, “it was very important to align people to this strategy where their greatest strengths are.

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“That strategy is very important, but that doesn't mean that if you're a procurement officer, it's any further out of your league than I am. We are all on equal terms. It is our strategy to deliver and we are all contributing to the goals and priorities within that plan.”

Richard Muirhead, CFO, echoes this sentiment. As CFO, he arguably has the most meaningful relationship with the CPO more than anyone. "The world is getting faster and faster, isn't it?" he says. “This is the fastest we've ever moved, but it's the slowest we'll ever move. It just gets faster and too much control can really get in the way. Collaboration is everything. Finance and procurement, to me, really need to go together to really enable the organization."

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Jon is a strong believer in his team and the people around him because he understands how every decision he or his team makes affects the officials on the field, which in turn affects the people in the communities around them. Perhaps one of the most rewarding things for Jon and his team, when looking at it through the lens of the private versus the public sector, is that they get to see firsthand what their roles bring to the organization and how they play a key role in making it happen. creating a real difference. “It's up to my team to support the business to get the best possible deal so that we can most effectively generate benefits for the communities we serve,” he says.

“A real difference in terms of how I view what I do versus my time in the private sector is that it's less about private profitability and pleasing shareholders. Here I want us to be the most efficient police in the country.

“It is a very exciting moment. West Mercia Police, yes it is a police force, but it is a brand. How can we use the supply chain, the innovation that's out there and the opportunities around social value, how do we help drive that in our communities, where can we support the police to do what they're supposed to do? That to me is a real opportunity. I am immensely proud to see how we can actually affect change. I want my team to believe in that, because if they think and believe, they act”.

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And believe me, as Farzad Zeb, Director of Purchasing, highlights the need for true alignment. “It's about having that strategic vision and mission and a clear direction of the business, knowing what they want in the future. Surveillance has the value of serving people, serving communities. This is about making sure our business strategy aligns with our frontline policing strategy,” he says.

“The environment is constantly changing and due to external pressures, the police have to adapt to these changes. We need to be able to adapt to this change and provide frontline workers with the latest technology, at the best price, following the right process and making sure we are future-proof. With Jon and the team that we have, we can bring out the best in each other to really add value and support that overall strategy and front line surveillance.”

In purchases, cost savings often speak louder. When it comes to transforming procurement, driving change, and implementing new infrastructure, you need results. In public sector procurement, where funding comes from the very public that WMP seeks to serve, the need for results, transparency, and compliance is heightened. And so it should be. But what does this mean for Jon and his team and this transformative journey? The new purchasing business model and the organization as a whole has already begun to produce profound changes in the way the organization operates. Success here will have a major impact both on WMP and its relationships with local suppliers and government agencies, as well as on a national scale. But ultimately, success will be defined by those within the organization, as well as those who touch local communities.

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Adam Pritchard, Director of Purchasing, is relatively new to WMP and the public sector. Like Jon, he came from the private sector. Transparency, compliance and due diligence are some of the biggest differences he has seen so far on his journey. “West Mercia Police is made up of thousands of officers and, above all, the public. These products and services that we buy and acquire are related and have a tremendous effect on the public,” he says.

“There is a tremendous amount of responsibility and integrity in this type of acquisition. The private sector was somewhat cruel by nature. Here, it is much more methodical. We are spending the public's money and therefore we need to make sure we are using it correctly, fairly and in a way that creates value for them."

Considering the last 12 months and the COVID19 pandemic, acquisitions have really come into the spotlight for many. As companies look to ensure business continuity, procurement has played a key role in balancing costs, realigning supplier relationships, and ultimately providing resilience and certainty in a time of great uncertainty. For some, this has meant that innovation, digitization and the evolution of procurement have taken a backseat to their primary responsibility, but for others, it has really accelerated the transformation.

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For WMP, change was already underway with its five-year WMP2020 vision to create a bold new policing model that brings unprecedented change to the way the force operates. The procurement transformation program falls within that vision and while the impact of COVID19 is undeniable, change was always looming for WMP.

Richard Walden, purchasing business partner, acknowledges this. “I see the role of the procurement business partner as an interface between function heads and CEOs to better understand their challenges, issues and demands and then shape solutions around that,” he says. “You could argue that previously we were very reactive as a role. This is a journey to be proactive, build real relationships, and be more than the role that can help achieve a savings goal.”

This notion of moving forward as a stronger organization, and therefore a stronger force, is a testament to the work Jon and his team have done and will continue to do. Where COVID has really highlighted the importance of acquisition, it has cemented the need for an acquisition function that is truly aligned with the strategy of WMP and all of its business areas. Earlier this year, WMP added its FM & Estates services and this required not only a new team to manage a large portfolio of Police and Fire Department asset properties, but also a need for a CAFM platform that could provide complete control and management of reactive assets. maintenance, planned maintenance visits, legal compliance, risk management, but also a financial solution that allows high levels of control of building maintenance cost patterns. This is where WMP partnered with Access Group to take advantage of their access maintenance platform.

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“The platform is cloud and app based so it can be used anywhere and provides full visibility and transparency for the West Mercia team and more importantly contractors and end users,” Jon explains.

“As a system, we greatly benefit from its ease of use and functionality to enable improved management of our assets across the portfolio, with a key feature being how the system guides users in routing the appropriate response to reactive work. . The system allows the real estate team to automate the entire workflow, reduce paperwork, emails, and manage reactive and planned maintenance in a timely manner.”

WMP has greatly improved its data management to enable more efficient planning of reactive work on its property and its ability to manage quoting for work so that costs are captured, controlled and auditable.

“Everything is online and we can access what we need in real time, which means WMP is in full control, allowing full transparency and visibility across the state.”

The purchasing sector is made up of a solid team of people, specialists in their specific categories, who work as a single unit and are aligned with the same objectives of the organization. As Jon himself acknowledges; He stresses how important cross-functional collaboration is to achieving any form of success for WMP.

As WMP emerges from this era of COVID19, this shopping journey will continue. It will change and change as the world around you and the face of the police change with it. Jon, through all his years in the private sector, understands that budgets will fluctuate, so he wants to emphasize that he and his team have a duty to continue to bring the best features and best value to WMP so that WMP will serve WMP. their communities today. and in the future

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"We must always remember that we finance ourselves with the public treasury," he adds. “We have a finite budget for what we want to do. But make no mistake; we want to do a lot and we will do a lot in the near future.”

Adds Rachel Hartland Lane: “Our vision and values ​​as a police force are to protect people from harm. Ultimately, that is what we are here for, and therefore the efficiency and effectiveness of our police service is absolutely vital. We take pride in making sure we give our executives and employees everything they need. The acquisition industry plays a key role in this and we have not lost sight of the fact that everything we do is to protect our audience."

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john campion

Police and Crime Commissioner, WestMerciaPolice

West Mercia Police: Procurement for the People (8)

“The acquisition is not broken, it's just not as good as it could be. Like many organizations, we tend to relive and repeat our mistakes and ask ourselves, "how did that happen?" If, for example, we purchase our uniforms poorly, in terms of quality or supply, we are not serving the public because the people doing the work do not have the proper equipment. We need to know how this happened and have it within us to change. For example, we could spend less on uniforms and use them more wisely; and that's just one way that we can be more strategic when it comes to the purchasing feature here.

This trip was about making the most of the process, not repairing a chasm. I see it as a way to improve our general well-being when it comes to shopping. The savings are not financial and are not the treasurer's problem. Hiring isn't just for hiring, it's part of the system that everyone is responsible for.

COVID has shown us why public sector procurement is sometimes among the best because it must be adaptable and this is important as we move beyond COVID and balance our efficiency and effectiveness in serving people.

I don't buy that idea that there are public sector purchases and private sector purchases. It's all just a good buy. We must make the best of what we are capable of exploring. The constant transformation journey is to keep it updated and people are a fundamental part of making that happen. For WMP and me, if the sourcing is serving itself and not the organization, it is totally lost.”

Julian Moss BSc (con honores), MFPH

Deputy Chief of Police, WestMerciaPolice

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“We have always been good at getting support for projects without any prior guidance from the acquisition, which came too late. With Jon, we make the right decisions and carry out effective procurement exercises, as well as receive the right advice to establish contracts and SLAs. Now we can hold them accountable. Acquisition is much more compatible. I see fewer problems arising as a result of poor procurement processes.

The reality of what the public sees and values ​​are people. 80% of our costs are in our greatest asset, our people. If we can spend less on uniforms and use them wisely to save time and effort, our people will be able to do a better job and we will have more people to serve the community. We have a public duty to ensure that we are as effective and efficient as possible in supporting the service we provide, which is delivered entirely through people.

I think there was an organizational mentality that things were taking too long. The use of technology, the different ways of connecting and the agile ways of working were probably the most visible. See where we've gotten so far with the purchases and see what we can do next. Our biggest legacy from this will be this feeling of recognizing what procurement can really do for the organization and how quickly and effectively it can do it, which has been one of the true nightmares of the public sector.”

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