CPO Spotlight | Lorraine Sawyer

Public Sector Insights | Lorraine Sawyer | Anchor

Lorraine and Zuzanna explore the evolving landscape of Procurement within the Public Sector, from career paths to changing regulations.

We’re delighted to introduce Lorraine, Director of Procurement for Anchor Housing. In the first Public Sector edition of the CPO Spotlight series for 2024.

You have extensive experience in Procurement both for the private and the public sector. What was your journey into Procurement?

In terms of how I got into procurement initially, I’m probably one of a, rare breed of procurement professionals who didn’t simply fall into it. I always knew that I wanted to get into buying and that developed into Procurement over time.

I did a business degree with a specialism in Procurement. This meant I was able to get my CIPS qualification through my degree and I’ve stayed in Procurement ever since. I was always interested in the saving money aspect of Procurement, and it’s developed a lot since then into strategic planning. I wasn’t that interested in being an accountant, procurement was the right role for me.

What skills would you consider to be essential as a Procurement professional and leader?

I think the most essential skills are probably the softer skills. So it’s about having great communication skills. It’s about influencing people and strong stakeholder management. You can learn technical skills, like tendering and analysis and the processes, particularly in the public sector. Those skills can be learnt on the job, but interpersonal skills are so important. That’s what I always look for in new hires and the people in my team, in terms of development.

What advice would you give somebody looking to embark on their Procurement career?

If you’re interested in a career in Procurement, then find out as much as you can about the function. Procurement isn’t just about the financials and the money saving.
It’s a really great opportunity to work with every area of the business and help to develop and define the strategic direction of a business. It’s important to understand that it’s not just an administrative function. It’s an opportunity to map out a long-term career.

Procurement is a brilliant profession to build a career in. Many Professionals fall into it and then they end up staying for their entire careers, sometimes +30 years because once you are in, you realise how interesting and varied it is; and how much influence you have in the strategy of the business.

What changes do you predict for the Public Sector in 2024?

Firstly, we have the shift from the Procurement Bill to the Procurement Act coming in October this year. That is enormous for anyone who’s in the public sector, working in Procurement. So that’s a hot topic at the minute because there’s a huge amount of preparation that needs to be done for that in terms of getting organisations ready.

October seems like quite a long way away, but it’s there’s a huge amount to do before we get to that October deadline. And the other hot topic right now is Sustainable Procurement, of course. Net zero is a huge focus, and the whole supply chain piece is really important in helping organisations to get to net zero and meet their sustainability targets. Working with the right supply base and developing sustainable Procurement policies and processes.

How does this sustainability agenda affect team structure?

I think with the new Procurement Act, I can see that public sector organisations, particularly the smaller ones, are probably going to need to boost their teams depending on their resourcing strategy.

There are lots of things that are required for the new Procurement Act that are quite different to what we have now in terms of public notices and processes, so teams will inevitably need support.

I think that will be a new type of role. We’ll be more interested in people that have sustainability experience, and that have worked on sustainable Procurement policies as this becomes more prominent.

What challenges do you face as a Procurement Professional working in the public sector?

So, I think within the public sector, the role can be tricky as there are tight envelopes in terms of your process and your policy. There is governance and regulation in the public sector that you just don’t have in the same way in the private sector.

When I moved from private to public, it was a real step change. What had felt like the traditional Procurement skills such as negotiation, that were critical in the private sector sort of go away in the public sector. Instead, you’re going through a very regulated process, which is a challenge for many organisations. You don’t have the same level of flexibility in the public sector that you have within private.

I’ve learned since being in the public sector that governance and regulation can be used to enhance Procurement. You need to put much more effort in upfront, thinking about what you’re trying to get out of this and how to work with your stakeholders. But there is more market engagement that you wouldn’t necessarily do in the same way in the private sector.

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