In our latest Big Interview, James Dobbin caught up with Nour-Eddine Boufertala, Head of Procurement at the England and Wales Cricket Board, to hear about his Procurement career and what it's like to work at the home of cricket.
How did you get into Procurement?
I have a chemical and process engineering degree and I started my career in Barcelona as an industrial engineer, so my route to Procurement wasn’t something that I really planned. My interest in Procurement was sparked from sitting next to the Procurement team during this year.
Because of this, I decided to learn more about the Supply Chain and
the Procurement function during my scholar exchange in the Polytechnic School of Montreal in Canada.
When I moved to France, I was lucky enough to join Thales Aerospace in Paris as a Buyer. Thales is a worldwide leading company that designs and builds electrical systems and provides services for the aerospace, defence,
transportation and security markets.
After three years in France, I moved to London, still working for Thales but in the transportation market. I was involved in the 4LM project upgrading the signalling systems to four of the London Underground’s most important railway lines: Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan.
I then had the opportunity to work for Hitachi Rail in London before joining the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), initially as a Procurement Manager before moving into the role of Head of Procurement.
Why are you passionate about Procurement?
The variety: you are right at the centre of the business. I enjoy working with people from different backgrounds and my stakeholders are extremely diverse, including suppliers (across multiple product/service groups), operations, marketing, commercial, IT, HR, etc. While diverse, the commonality is always a complete commitment towards the
At the ECB, I can have such a big impact on the game which is what I enjoy the most. Savings that we make can be reinvested into the game to get more young people playing cricket at school or at their local clubs; it pushes me to do my best every day.
As a big sport fan, it’s amazing to be part of the sports industry and work in such close proximity with the other sport governing bodies, such as the Football Association, the Rugby Football Union and the Lawn Tennis Association.
It’s a small world where everyone has the same passion.
In 2019, the ECB launched its game-wide strategy for 2020-2024 called Inspiring Generations, with the overarching ambition to inspire a generation to say: ‘cricket is a game for me’. It is a unique opportunity to be part of this journey and we encourage everyone to create their own connection with the game, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.
As a Procurement expert, it is inspiring to have such a great ambition, as we always know what we are working towards.
What are the most challenging aspects of your role/being in Procurement?
The most challenging aspect about my role is to make sure we are receiving the best value for money. As a sport governing body, I must make sure we are receiving the best service, quality and price from our partners in order to continue developing ourselves and investing in our grassroots programme. For example, we are currently looking at ways to increase women’s and girls’ participation in the game.
In addition, the markets are becoming more volatile, with prices fluctuating, supplier shortage, and uncertainty, especially with the current Covid-19 crisis. However, all of these challenges push Procurement professionals to think outside of the box, and explore unconventional ways of delivering the best price, quality, and service.
What skills do you consider essential to be a Procurement leader?
- Be pragmatic: you need to make complex situation easy to understand for everyone.
- Be open-minded: as a Procurement leader, you must work with different departments with very strong expertise. You need to understand their challenges and their vision before starting to implement a solution.
- Be curious: you cannot progress in the Procurement world if you are unable to ask questions.
- Have a vision: it’s important to always keep your goal in mind and achieve your objectives.
Have you noticed any trends in the Procurement Industry lately?
The trend that’s everywhere right now is ‘sustainability’. This is a worldwide major challenge for everyone.
As a sport governing body, the ECB supports game-wide initiatives related to climate change and our environmental impact. A Game Changer report recently highlighted the threats to sport at grassroots and elite level. It singled out cricket as the sport that will be hardest hit by climate change because of its reliance on the weather.
For example, school and club cricket was cancelled in South Africa because of drought and play was suspended during a Test match in Delhi because of air pollution. Lately, the sport and its facilities has also been affected by bushfires in Australia, hurricanes in the Caribbean and flooding in the UK.
The ECB is fully committed to accelerating actions designed to mitigate the impact of climate change.
The Procurement department is one of the main players for leading these actions and we are already having an impact on our supply chain through reduction of single-use plastic, the development of a green energy strategy and sustainable packaging.
Can you tell us about your biggest achievements in your Procurement career?
If I look back to when I first started to work and I look at myself now, I am really proud of what I have achieved. I have had the opportunity to work and live in Spain, France, Canada and the United Kingdom. I have worked in the aerospace, automotive, transportation and now the sports industry; however, this is just the start of the journey: I am only 31. I know what I’m capable of delivering so I’m looking forward to what is to come.
What advice would you give someone who is embarking on a Procurement career?
Be bold and don’t think you have to follow the typical career path. The Procurement sector is wide with loads of opportunity around the world. From my personal experience, I need to work in something I am passionate about with strong leaders; if something really doesn’t feel right, I would change it straight away – I always have.
So, believe what you’re doing is the right decision and follow your instinct.
Tell us about you: What do you like doing in your spare time? Do you have any favourite books, films, destinations, sports etc?
I am fortunate to have a fantastic family: I have a nine-month-old daughter and I love to spend quality time with my wife and baby (especially during the lockdown). I am also an avid sport fan and follow basketball, tennis and football, in addition to cricket.
I also really enjoy travelling. I lived in Barcelona, Montreal and Paris and, as a family, we are always keen on discovering new countries and new cultures.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I am still young … but I would say: “Don’t think too much and enjoy what you are doing”.
Is work/life balance important? If so, how do you achieve it?
Work-life balance is essential for my wellbeing. The ECB is the perfect environment to work. Our headquarters is based at Lord’s (St John’s Wood) and it is a privilege to work at the ‘Home of Cricket’. We also have an onsite gym, squash courts and we are right in front of Regent’s Park.
The organisation is doing an outstanding job to make sure its staff has the freedom to manage work-life balance, so that we are in the right frame of mind to give our best performance, to learn, to develop and to deliver for the business.
It couldn’t be better.