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Triage's importance in aligning services procurement with strategy

How organisations can leverage triage to make the right resourcing decisions.

Episode highlights


The value levers in services procurement
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The perceptions of performance in procurement
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Aligning procurement strategy with ESG
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Exec buy-in on procurement strategy
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Where does the responsibility for resourcing strategy lie?
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Posted by: ZivioReading time: 79 minutes

With Ben Weston, Global Category Manager, Talent Acquisition & Consulting at BP

00:00:00 - The fundamentals of pragmatic services procurement
00:08:10 - The big issues in services procurement
00:18:30 - BP's services procurement evolution and addressing ESG and D&I
00:29:45 - Steps to setup for effective services procurement
00:34:20 - Triage: where does responsibility lie for total resource management?
00:48:50 - Consistently driving the right choices during the triage process
00:57:05 - Opening and closing the loop with strategy

Transcript

Jonny Dunning:   
0:00       So we should be up and running. And assuming that we are, Ben Weston, welcome! How are you?

Ben Weston:         0:09       Jonny, thanks for having me. I’m very well. Thank you. Yes. Happy Wednesday.

Jonny Dunning:   0:13       Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll formally introduce you as Global Category Manager for Talent Acquisition and Consulting at BP. Really appreciate you taking the time out to come and have a chat. We’ve got some topics lined up around the framework of the route ahead for services procurement, as an integrated part of overall workforce strategy. And clearly, we’re probably going to go on some interesting side routes as we progress through this conversation. But I’m really looking forward to dive into this in a bit more detail. Before we get into it however, I really enjoyed listening to you talk at the APSCO members meeting. Recently, I really enjoyed that. And it was interesting, particularly for me, because you’re obviously on the client member community side of things for that conversation. But previously, you’ve actually been involved with APSCO itself and also on the other side of the fence. Tell me a little bit about the kind of transition, what did that feel like?

Ben Weston:         1:14       Yeah, it’s been an interesting transition, I think a few of my ex-colleagues that I’m still in touch with, they look at my path now and they’re a bit confused. So I’ve been involved in staffing in one way, shape or form for just over 20 years. And I started an agency, I moved in house having self-funded some CIPDs certifications. And then I found myself in outsource recruitment, both on the contractor side MSP and the perm side LPO. And it’s been a really interesting transition. And I got voted on to the apps go executive committee representing my employer at the time. And what we were trying to do with our clients was really kind of have the supplier as the USP. Rather than that kind of master servant, purchaser-supplier engagement, we came into our clients and try to ensure that they could secure the, I suppose a great talent from their suppliers through closer engagement. And it wasn’t really a eureka moment, except for the fact that so many of our competitors just didn’t grab on to the opportunity. And what I mean by that is, when I first started out in recruitment, my first boss told me that “The person is everything. If you treat them well, they become hiring managers. They refer you as a partner to their nearest and dearest.” And actually, it’s not too dissimilar in service procurement. And ultimately, talent procurement, which is, if you get close and build strategic partnerships with your suppliers, they will invariably drop what they have on the go to help you if they feel that they truly understand what value they’re adding, beyond simply putting a bump on a seat. So, it was good fortune, I’d say Jonny, for me, that when I joined BP in 2019, they’ve got an embarrassment of riches in my colleagues when it comes to services procurement experience, networking, bringing external expertise into the business, but what they were lacking at that exact moment in time was someone that could come in and talk on behalf of the services suppliers. So I’ve found that transition over the last two and a half years really interesting. And just trying to stay true to what kind of drives me which is there is no them and us, there is no master service. We are completely codependent on one another. And actually, the way I see it going, that codependency is ever-growing.

Jonny Dunning:   4:04       Really, I just made myself a couple of notes there. So one of the notes I made was no agenda. And I don’t mean this conversation, I think some of the things that hopefully we’ll touch on hinge around how organizations can make changes and there are challenges, and sometimes there’s politics, and there’s where the responsibilities lie, and all that sort of thing? So I think it’s interesting, looking at your background, because you’ve had these, I made another note, which was a multifaceted approach. So you’ve had different angles on the situation from which to assess it and from which to be involved in it. So I think that if you can take a no agenda approach and these types of things where, there’s no foregone conclusion. It’s just a question of what’s the most pragmatic way to achieve our objectives? I’d imagine that’s a pretty crucial part of what you’re doing.

Ben Weston:         4:59       Absolutely. 100%, I was talking, I won’t name the partner, but I was talking to one of us are very key services partners last week, they said something really interesting to me. And this will appeal to anybody who’s been involved, for the time that I have or longer, and that is right now that real focus on getting the right people into organizations to transform them, it was easier in the lead up to y2k than it is now. Having worked on the services and the supplier side, at that point, I just find that really hard to fathom. And it really magnifies for me just how close we need to be with our partners and how we need to, not step out the way, but we need to facilitate their ability to bring their external expertise into our purchasing organization. 

Jonny Dunning:   5:59       Yeah, it’s such a big thing, where you are kind of melding these two organizations, when it comes to services. I always think that if you’re involved in the procurement of services, you get this fantastic visibility of an organization, because you know the internal viewpoint. But you can also get a really good view on the external viewpoint. Consultancies are coming into your business, they’re sitting down with teams and senior leaders and putting together reports and presenting to people, they are learning a lot about the business. And so I think procurement can capture quite a lot of information on actually what’s really going on internal narrative versus external. And sometimes you’re going to get kind of people, not quite getting either side. But it must be a really interesting view just to uncover areas where internal capability maybe isn’t used as effectively as it could be, or actually other areas where external capability is utterly crucial to the business, which goes into all the kind of, the idealistic topics around, how do you measure value more effectively? And you don’t want to look at your services budget and say, “Cut, spend,” you want to say, “Increase ROI.” 

Ben Weston:         7:21       Who you work for, right, whoever you work for, if you’re in procurement, savings is a target. But as you said, “What are the other value levers?” Which hopefully we get to talk a bit about today from you after time?

Jonny Dunning:   7:34       Yeah. I mean, like I say, it’s kind of, some of this stuff, is really kind of, the ideal, perfect view in the future. There’s a lot of work to do for majority of organizations to get up to the point where they can start re-accessing and all that good stuff. But I definitely think that’s the kind of the ideal outcome in most people’s minds. So to look at services procurement as a whole, what are the sort of issues that you think exists within the world of services procurement at the moment in terms of how its managed, how it’s addressed? How planning is done? What it’s giving the business and how the business is engaging services suppliers?

Ben Weston:         8:19       It’s interesting, because so much of my experience in services procurement, is that it’s the overarching view from execs, is that it’s seen as discretionary spend and it absolutely is. But I’m glad you asked that particular question, because I’ve been working on a SWOT on that with my team recently, whilst we build our next three-year plan. I think it all stems around inconsistency of approach, lack of data has been my downfall wherever I’ve worked, but obviously a huge opportunity as well. And then I think most organizations are or if they not, they should be looking at those additional value levers now, the opportunities if you get services, procurement right to really drive your company’s agenda around sustainability, more specifically carbon emissions, your ESG and DNI and diversity policies, your decisions around upskilling your people, you’re almost that build by borrow approach, if you like and segmentation, but the big ones that I’ve come up with my colleagues recently, I think there’s inconsistencies around supplier rate cards, particularly if they’re not all expiring and being negotiated at the same time. I think there’s a real inconsistency around performance monitoring, if different parts of the business are working with the same single or same set of suppliers, then unless you’ve got a really good robust supplier relationship management framework, you’re going to have inconsistencies and even more dangerous than that different perceptions of how they’re performing across your organization. I think as I mentioned earlier, lack of sight is the big one for me. Having worked previously in contingent workforce where vendor management systems are king, with systems like yours, and the companies that you compete with in the market, if you could easily pull data on what release orders or statement of works are active in your business at that point, when they run until, who’s buying it, what the service description actually is, what the intended outcomes are? Then suddenly that big headache that most of us refer to as, “I work in a really complex category, and a really complex business,” starts to melt away a little bit. I think what we end up with as services procurement people is a list of issues that need fixing on a tactical basis. And unless you can get those foundational layers right with the strategy that start to deal with kind of the quality assurance piece, rather than the quality control, which is the immediate fixes, then you’re probably going to be on that cycle forever. And one great example of that is scope creek. So do we believe that as services procurement people that it’s sometimes used to bring in people that are probably more akin to a worker rather than services? Almost certainly. But can we say with certainty, not always, we need that data, we need those definitions. And we need to align and run those sprints and projects to really get under the skin and make sure that categorization of procurement is right.

Jonny Dunning:   11:59     Yeah, that’s interesting. So you were talking about perceptions of performance. I think that’s an interesting area, because in a lot of cases, that’s all it can come down to. Because there isn’t enough factual evidence to really support the performance of a particular supplier in a particular project or across a particular period of time. And what you were talking about in terms of capturing what needs to be done, who’s going to do it, what they promised, is crucial, and often is quite difficult to capture on a kind of scalable way in most organizations where you can use the data, which exactly as you say, that’s where you need to use services procurement technology to manage that effectively. But then you’ve got the delivery side of it as well, which layers on all that extra value of, well, what was promised didn’t get delivered, didn’t get delivered exactly like you say, on time, on budget, actually did the scope change, because there’s so many ways in which a supplier could be perceived as being ineffective, but actually, they’re very effective. And likewise, there’s ways in which they could be perceived for whatever reason is extremely effective, maybe just because of their name. Whereas actually, there might be big cost overruns or inefficiencies, or whatever it might be. But unless you can actually drill into that you’re going to rely on perceptions. And bearing in mind the not only the amount of spend that’s involved in services procurement, but the crucial nature of the services that are delivered. It’s something that it just can’t be ignored, really kind of. I think, another thing about services procurement, that I’ve heard you mentioned before, was about the variety in customer types, in the sense that effectively, the customer within the organization, looking at needs analysis, things like that, there’s a lot of variety. And the services you get from a particular supplier might be just within one very specific area of the business, and not necessarily company why, but it might be crucial to that area or there might be other areas that aren’t aware of that supply, because it’s only used by one particular area? What’s your take on that side of things? 

Ben Weston:         14:07     Yeah the issue is real, as they say. My particular area of focus is the business consulting world and what we’ve tried to do is really break that in two subcategories or service lines if you like. Strategy, consulting, business operations, consulting is very different to areas like IT strategy consulting. So we have contracts managed by peers of mine in IT services, apps development, digital enhancements, we sometimes use the same partners but what we try to do is focus on actually, is this a think, and a strategy piece work or is this a deliver a squad and bring external expertise in because either we can’t hire or upskill to deliver it all ourselves in the speed that we need to, or actually, that’s not a key focus area for ours. This is a drop in and drop out type scenario. So what we try to do is, is really get into the weeds of what is it you’re looking to achieve, and have we got the right partners to focus on that stage of the process? The overarching, I’ll stick with IT, the overarching review of the technology that’s used within the business, how it should be structured moving forwards, and the return on investment piece that is delivered to the exec team should be very different to the solution that’s then purchased to actually deliver that function alongside our staff and our teams? Then you add to the mix that, “This is the first footsie 100 company I’ve worked with. And it just so happens to be a really complex one as well,” we’re going through our own well documented transitions, it’s a really exciting time to be here. But ultimately, we’re transitioning from an international oil company to an integrated energy company or IEC. And with that brings the need for skills that we’ve never had before, all underpinned by data science, data engineering, and more than just sight of what’s happening, but also the expansion of our midstream and retail businesses. And suddenly, you find yourself running a category that has two requirements coming in, one from our production business and one from our retail business, they’re kind of looking for the same thing, but they need that industry expertise from the panel that you’re looking to send the bid out to so it’s an ever moving feast. And I think what’s absolutely key in the role of a procurement team is to really try and get ahead of that conversation and make it more of a proactive one than reactive. And if you run a function like IT, if you run a function like legal tax, which some of my teammates do, that normally you have a stakeholder list, you have a group and your strategy to really go after. But when you look at the bigger areas of consulting, contingent labor, the talent services piece, in theory, it could be anyone with a badge. So how do you really get in front of the discussion and add the value from a services procurement perspective before the horse is bolted?

Jonny Dunning:   17:38     Again, yeah, like you say, it comes down to data, doesn’t it? If you can see the data and what people are doing, you can then, do retrospective analysis and look forward as to how you can improve it?

Ben Weston:         17:48     Well, and exact support, Jonny. 

Jonny Dunning:   17:52     Yeah, 100%. 

Ben Weston:         17:54     So if you’ve got the triggers in place to say, you cannot pass go, or you cannot proceed with this bid, either in the way you should, through procurement, or the way that you shouldn’t, sometimes, unintentionally, because this is how you did it in your last company, if there are the triggers to stop you moving past that point, then at least we know that it is approved as a sensible way to spend funds and to go after the business. 

Jonny Dunning:   18:25     Yeah, and like you say, if you’ve got that support, from the top level management, then you can really go ahead and execute. But one of the other things I found interesting, you mentioned was about BP transition and evolution as an organization. So particularly, if you look at the consulting front, there will be big global strategy firms that you guys will have had a long relationship and very good relationship with, but particularly now that you’re pushing into new areas, and the business is doing different things. And again, this kind of ties into the ESG side of things, in the sense that you can look at more diverse supply chain, different types of suppliers, diversity within suppliers. And also inclusion in a great point that a lady called Andrea Fimian brought up in a podcast that I recorded with her where she was talking about inclusion as allowing smaller companies to be part of the bidding process. Whereas if there isn’t a kind of open and well managed process around procuring services, then quite often it’s just a gimme. So what’s your view in that in terms of leveraging the right size of companies and getting the value from that diversity? Because I feel like there’s a lot of innovation out there, both big companies and small companies, but there’s different sized companies and different types of companies will try and do things differently and they’ll have a different makeup of their own businesses as well.

Ben Weston:         20:05     Yeah, it’s a really good point. And I listened to that podcast as well. What a fascinating lady! I thought the part around sort of digress. But I think the part around GDPR in Europe versus what you’re trying to do with your diversity agenda is something we’re failing to. Thankfully, we’ve got experts like her to help us.

Jonny Dunning:   20:25     That was something I’ve never thought of.

Ben Weston:         20:29     Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t go as far as it blew my mind. But it was a bit of a kind of lightbulb moment Jonny to go, “I didn’t even think of that!” There’s so many factors that you need to almost tick off, when you’re putting the strategy together. On this point, I agree with you, what’s the old adage, no one gets fired for going with IBM. And like to say, we’ve got some amazing, long standing partnerships with a whole host of consulting services, and consulting firms. But I think what I’ve observed in my services side, is that companies do, by and large, and historically, have a tendency to bundle up services, and to reach out to a or a couple of partners and say, “We’re looking to do all of this, we want you to partner with us.” And it kind of covers the whole managing consulting spectrum, the execution, the insights, the expertise, the information. And I think on the positive side, what that leads to, is very solid relationships. It can accelerate delivery, though, like you say, they know our business really well, that institutional knowledge is great, you will get strong responsiveness. And you’ll get outputs that, like you said, based on perception. And I think if we were to summarize them all, you call them as reasonable, above average, certainly acceptable. But the risk with that is it can facilitate low accountability, not just for price, but for consistency and performance and pushing the agenda. So if you look to unbundle some of those services, I’m quite open about what we’re trying to do, which is get closer with our partners, get them closer to understanding our ambitions as an organization, make sure that they know what their part is as a trusted adviser. But we do need disruptors as well. And we can have a panel of a PSL. They can all be the classic companies used by most organizations, really strong history and background in what they do. But then there are disruptors like Freelancer platforms, who sometimes bring the individuals to us and it might work for certain types of services so that we can point the arrow of our actual supply partners where we truly need their expertise. But likewise, just in my area of business consulting, there’s a lot of disruptors in the DNI and ESG space, there’s a lot of minority and women owned strategy houses and business consultancies here. And if we’re going to truly deliver, what BPs overarching strategy and ambition is, then we need to bring those partners to the table. When we combine that with our growth areas, like low carbon energy, and the hydrogen and offshore wind businesses that I work with is fascinating. And please don’t test me on it because I like to be judged by the company that I keep, they are knowledgeable beyond belief, but when they come with the strategy and say, “Here’s what we’re looking to do,” we as a business actually need a very different type of supplier in some instances now. We can reach out to our classic partners and say, “Here’s a new growth area, can you send me a paper? I’d like to share it with our VPs in that area,” they’ll come up with something brilliant. But actually, the turnaround time needed for some of these projects, particularly the ones led by the government is a week compared to 12 weeks.

Jonny Dunning:   24:33     So it’s obviously right skills. Is it sometimes right size? Is it sometimes right time in terms of when you got fast turnaround staff, if you’ve only got a very small select number of suppliers that you can go to, none of them might be able to do it in that time if you’ve got the ability to go out? For example, if you’re running RFP processes using services becoming technology, if you’ve got the ability to go out rapidly to arrange of suppliers and receive bids and turnaround on the basis of, “I need this and I need it then.” Is that a consideration because that’s almost like a gig economy type approach, but within your organization?

Ben Weston:         25:14     Absolutely. And my personal position is, unashamedly position of saying to all of our partners, whenever I speak to them, we need more competitive bidding. And we need a more diverse pool of supply partners to be invited to those bids. And cream will rise to the top, skews the cliche, my old boss used it loads, but it does resonate with me that our legacy historic partners are as important as ever, they will win bids. And because of their infrastructure, they’ll win more than many, but we should at least include, the micro and the SME organizations where applicable in our supply chains to really kind of ensure that we go where the talent goes, but also that we’re ensuring that we’re sometimes applying a slightly different lens to what we’re looking to deliver and how we’re looking to deliver it? Absolutely. So I do think it’s sometimes right time, right place. But what is certain is, we will not transform one little bit, if we don’t get ahead of that conversation and start to drop the strategy of how we’re going to engage work early on in the hopper, as it were.

Jonny Dunning:   26:36     Yeah. And I think, if you can analyze, essentially, if you can work across a diverse set of suppliers, and broaden your supply chain visibility and relationships, you’re also making that supply chain more resilient, it’s got more variety, and you just naturally going to have more innovation. But there’s more options there. And I think, if you’re measuring the performance, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a big supplier or a small supplier, but whether you’ve worked with your company for a long time, whether you are brand new, ultimately, if you’re judged on your results, then you have this kind of meritocracy situation where the big consultancy might be doing a fantastic job. And for whatever reason, they might not be being recognized for that, or they might be doing a great job, but being hindered by internal processes, for example, unless you measuring it, you can’t find any of that out. So in the real world, for any supplier that’s doing a good job, that sort of thing should be welcome news, really.

Ben Weston:         27:34     And it just takes you to the next level of engagement. I can only speak for me, but when I was on the supplier, and the services side, it used to drive me crazy, when I couldn’t really kind of summarize at the end, what we’d achieved and what the outcomes were and how what we’ve ended up with delivers against all of the original intended outcomes? We need to give them that platform. If we’re going to grow, we need to give them the opportunity to tell us some constructive feedback, hopefully mostly positive, but sometimes not, on our processes as well, how are we developing our own people? How are we developing me?

Jonny Dunning:   28:19     I always think, if you look at consulting in particular, it can be quite tricky, because the intention, or the requirement can be quite ethereal if it’s not captured effectively. And likewise, in terms of the delivery, if a piece of consulting is delivered, but actions aren’t taken internally, based on the suggestions of that consulting, then the perception, the outcome can be skewed. Whereas actually, if it’s all clearly captured, then, what is it you really want to do? What does he really want to achieve? And you might need to work with your suppliers to define that. And the suppliers who help you define that most effectively might end up being the ones you choose. But that’s defined really effectively in the first place with clear objectives, the classic statement of work clear deliverables and milestones, outputs, that’s something you can measure against, rather than having this vague thing of, “What happened with that project with so and so consulting, we spent 20 million on that what happened?” And what’s happened is, what was asked to be delivered, what was contracted, and what was actually delivered? Because if the right things were delivered, then it’s the responsibility of the business to act on following that, as long as the what was delivered was effective. But you can’t only really capture that at the time, you can’t really, it’s not very easy to do that retrospectively, because it all just blurs into the carnage of business as usual in the fact that everyone’s busy. Everyone’s got a lot on their plate. It’s really interesting. But another point we’ll come on to was, obviously we’re talking about making choices within an organization and I want to look at how an organization can set up for that? So you mentioned getting exact buy in. How would you do that? What’s the best way to do that? Does it come from the top, or does it work its way out? 

Ben Weston:         30:16     Well, I think, all of us have a hook, or two. Something means something to all of us. Yeah, I don’t think anyone will ever quote me on that. But I think if you look at your company ambitions and kind of stand in that moment, or utopia, we were talking about earlier, and then work backwards from there. I think the classic ones have been unlocking savings potential and they shouldn’t go anywhere. But on top of that, and hopefully, we get the chance to talk about the classification and re-channeling of work that we talked about before. So financial return, I think operational efficiencies is absolutely key for stakeholders or purchase requesters, if you like in your business, as individual customers. And then you’ve got DNI and ESG and the bits that get people out of bed and excited every morning, I think if you come up with a strategy that goes to your exec team and talks to improve the visibility, and therefore spend management, the optimization of cost, a consistent experience for them, and all of the people that they manage and oversee across the business. And if you can get automation right, that also means speed to market as well, clear scope definition, compliant with policies and requirements. I was very heavily involved in ir35, with my teammates, and that’s kind of led us to our triage desk type solution.

Jonny Dunning:   31:57     I’ll just say I’m very much looking forward to coming onto that trail. The last one, you mentioned was addressing global skills?

Ben Weston:         32:07     While the shortage, absolutely yeah. We talked about that perception piece. And if we take perception is reality. Most services procurement people have requested or stakeholders who will provide some form of uncertain stroke, negative feedback at some point in time to say, “I’m not sure we’re getting the best people.” And you try and dig into that, and quantify it and qualify it and come back with your findings. And it’s really hard unless you can really segment and ensure that you’re categorizing correctly, and that the suppliers, and the managers who you’re representing are all really clear and more importantly be aligned on what the project is and what the outcomes will be?

Jonny Dunning:   33:02     Yeah, and I think that also comes down to the overall strategy of the organization and how well that’s communicated. So you guys going through a massive change at the moment, I know there’s very clear kind of strategic objectives that are filtered down, that just helps the whole process. Because if you’re buying manager, you understand what the overall company strategy is. I’ve said this so many times, but I’m just really passionate about it. If everyone in the business understands where you’re going, you can all work towards that objective. People can come up with ideas and their ideas are useful and relevant, because they know what objective you’re trying to get towards in terms of buying, the objectives are clear, and how that fits into what that person is doing, what their department is doing, is clear. And therefore, you can work more effectively to things like outputs, for example.

Ben Weston:         33:47     Absolutely. 

Jonny Dunning:   33:48     So exec buying is critical. You talked about kind of getting the visibility and automation and structuring it. Obviously technology can play a huge part in that. But structure is important for the reasons of having the control and the compliance around how you’re buying, what you’re buying and making sure what you’re buying is what you think it is? And so just coming on to that area around categorization that you mentioned, it fits in a little bit to the kind of total resource management conversation. So that’s an interesting one for multiple areas, and probably a completely separate podcast on its own.

Ben Weston:         34:28     Probably cover a full one, yes.

Jonny Dunning:   34:30     Exactly. But just to touch on a couple of areas with that. So where does the responsibility lie for helping those choices be made effectively and how would you just go about doing that? Because there’s so many different ways you can get things done and they have their own merits and they fit well into particular areas. And maybe as a buying manager, it can be quite difficult to spot that. So, where do people go to and how do they get the best results out of that?

Ben Weston:         35:05     It’s sits with procurement. Yeah, it’s an interesting one. So just to clarify, Jonny, my background is very much in the services side, rather the goods. I studied goods during my SIPS, of course, but from a services perspective and more importantly, on the talent services side, there are many ways to buy the same thing, ultimately. And I think that’s probably true for most people that listen, and are involved in the same area that you and I are. If we look at talent, there’s contingent workforce, contractors, temporary workers, staff, augmentation type services, there’s statement of work or release order driven purchases, around managed services, squads, project teams, single resources. And then if you’re really aligning as a business, whether you in procurements or members of HR, and talent specific teams, manage your staff and your FTC kind of recruitment processes. If you’re really going to get clear, and channel where someone should go to purchase the services correctly, then, for me, all of those need to be aligned. And that’s what we’re working on right now is an ongoing series of processes to make key decisions and make the process easy for our people, which are aligned with policies and strategy and ambitions, which are really clearly communicated to us all, but also driven by data as well.

Jonny Dunning:   36:47     And how was that brought together? Because that’s a lot of different facets.

Ben Weston:         36:54     And lots of projects.

Jonny Dunning:   36:55     Yeah. How is that brought together? I mean, we’ve talked before about triage. I think that’s a fascinating area. I mean, what is that the way to bring it all together?

Ben Weston:         37:09     It’s so exciting what my colleagues do in triage. I mean, to a lesser extent, I ride on the coattails of some great people, but the triage desk is fascinating. So if I stick with my particular category that I’m in right now, business consulting, that without applying some quite restrictive controls, there are often ways of purchasing the same thing, or group or person. And there’s more than one way of doing, you can say, “Okay, I’ve looked at all of the guidance around, whether it’s a work of versus services, I’ve read the guidance on most companies, kind of stance and feed back to the business in the lead up to the intermediaries’ legislation coming into place last April, they’re still gray area for me, I am not really supervising and controlling them day-to-day. But I have got a release order rather than a contract. And I don’t approve timesheets. They’re here kind of working off their own steam.” And then you drill into a bit further and you go to the next level of questions around, “Whether substitution clauses are allowed?” I’m just springing some out of the air, hypothetically, “Or maybe a project gets cancelled, I’d like to move them on to another piece of work. Or if they don’t deliver that milestone, do they come back and deliver it for free until they have? Or do I actually pay them for the time work like I do the staff in my team.” And I think most people I speak to about that are agree that, I wouldn’t say could be manipulated, but it can be looked at in different ways based on who the requester is? So what we’ve looked to do is try and get a triage type solution which, in the easiest sense of the word, it develops a critical kind of single point of entry into the, “I have a need” conversation that comes into procurement. And then through a series of questions, we can help kind of the individual demystify and decipher what channel they should be going so that we can try and ensure that optimal buying channels are used at any one time. And obviously the reporting that goes all the way through to our CFO is accurate. So there’s no rocket science questions to this. It’s ones that all companies ask, “Is it a person? Is it a person with deliverables? Is it a service with deliverables? Is it a consulting service? Am I looking for skills only or a person only?” But the plan is that we can go through a series of questions. And the individual who is basing a lot of way do otherwise on what they can see on Internet and via Internet and what they did historically at their previous employer, or what they did last time they had a purchase? What we’re trying to do is help take that headache away from the what’s the optimal buying channel, where do I go next?

Jonny Dunning:   40:28     Yeah, because, I mean, the certain ways that can be kind of systemized. There’s going to be standard Q&A, you can take people through a kind of decision tree process. A bit like that, effectively, like the way the assessed tool works, yes, no, pushing you in the right direction. There’s quite a lot that feeds into that, from a legal perspective, tax financial perspective, but also from a right fit requirement to engagement type or requirement to methodology, because there are all these different channels. And they operate in different ways. And like you said, you might be looking for an output or an outcome. Or you might be just looking for some people to do some work. But I guess it gets tricky, when it’s, a question of how do you dig deeper into the strategy behind or the understanding behind the people that are answering these questions. And I guess that’s where there’s a real people element to it as well, if it’s a critical purchase, or if somebody wants to talk to somebody and wants to dive into more detail, then you have a really great in depth conversation with them. But, you mentioned goods versus services, guided buying and goods is far simpler. The supply chain is far more complex. But guided buying for things is much simpler than services, which are this kind of intangible thing that you have to try and somehow tie down. 

Ben Weston:         42:05     I think we talked before about red widgets. 

Jonny Dunning:   42:07     Yeah, another red widget.

Ben Weston:         42:12     I wouldn’t possibly say anything other than that it carries its own complexities. But I think what I like about the services, procurement that I’m involved in just how unpredictable a commodity we all are. We do weird things and it makes things interesting.

Jonny Dunning:   42:30     And do you see situations where, for people where the requirement they’ve got would make most sense, for example, for it to be deliverables, they’re actually purchased. But for them, it’s a bit of a hassle because they’ve got to work out what the deliverables are? So they’d rather just go for just having some people. How do you manage that sort of thing within a triage desk? Because you could look at it one way and go, “Well, typically, aren’t deliverables more expensive?” Depends, isn’t it? 

Ben Weston:         43:04     It does depend? 

Jonny Dunning:   43:05     How long is it going to take to do it by deliverables? How much is going to cost versus when’s it going to get done under a people just working scenario? Is that being measured? And obviously, one thing isn’t always right for every situation. But if someone’s in a situation where they could actually put it into deliverables, that requires an understanding of the overall strategy, and what’s going to be done. But for an organization that’s quite pragmatic, because you know that certain things are going to be done, rather than there’s work being done. And it’s not so objective based now, obviously, targets and KPIs and things like that exist on a micro, macro level within the organization as well. But yeah, do you find there’s an issue with people maybe shying away from certain delivery methods that they could be utilizing because it’s just getting to the point of utilizing that takes a bit more effort? 

Ben Weston:         44:01     Yeah, absolutely. And I think on the flip side, there will always be individuals whose preferred approach would be services because it’s a bundled often fixed price, “That’s my budget. I’m sticking to it. I don’t need to worry about performance. I just bring them and say, “This isn’t working out. Can you send someone else next week?” Sounds very aggressive. But there’s always somebody that purchases that way.” I haven’t come across them and BP and Trinidad, but everywhere I’ve been, there is a pattern of having group of people whose default position will be, if I purchase it through services. It’s clean. It’s on a single release order. It’s done. It’s written in, my finance lead knows about it. I think, talking about triage for ours, we could probably talk just about the worst recumbents saint versus contingent workers for a session in itself, I think we’re linear business who wants to operate through digital enhancements and making informed decisions from having that information there to make informed decisions. And our triage process is no different to that, we have an ongoing basis of testing it with our key stakeholders across the group, so that we factor in, the different country, by country nuances. But there needs to be a human element to the discussion once a decision tree, if you like, is spat out. The assess tool I found useful when it was first released. But I think the record I found was 28 different answers I had to give based on how it kind of found out and permutations. We’re looking at four or five key questions to keep it slick and to keep interest so that people use it. But it will give an answer but that will need to be backed up with a conversation. And that’s why we have a strategic sourcing function that work alongside us to say, “Look, Mr. or Mrs. Requests, the most important thing for us is that we’re involved in the conversation at the time of request, rather than becoming an admin function,” which ultimately says, “By the way, I’ve just signed this contract, can you store it somewhere in a Reba,” for example. And that’s what we’re looking to do is to ensure that if it looks like a contractor, it goes that route, if it looks like it’s an enduring role, then it should probably receive sign off to be invested in as a permanent hire. And then maybe we might occur at a short term staff augmentation, contractor type route to supplement that whilst we’re hiring and notices being served that kind of thing. Because the risk, if we don’t apply that is so subjective, it’s feedback from stakeholders saying, “Well, I never really go in that room, because they don’t really service what I’m after. I’ve tried it before. And I haven’t received what I wanted.” And then you speak to the team and on the flip side of that discussion, saying, “We never actually had a conversation. They didn’t tell us what they wanted. And they certainly didn’t tell us that they were unhappy. We actually provided a shortlist. And the next thing we knew, they replied to us and said, “Oh, it’s okay, I’d found somebody.” And we were sitting there going, ‘Well, they haven’t found it through our route, because you can’t pass go unless we approve it as well.” So, this is trying to bring that conversation to a head to just say, “Look, we’re all on the same team, we need this, but we need to do it in a really sensible way. And we need to identify opportunities for where new disruptors, replacements, additional partners are needed in order to service the evolving needs of our organization.”

Jonny Dunning:   48:07     Yeah, and going back to something you said earlier, it’s not like the hard to find talent in areas like renewables or cyber or IT, it is not like they’re just sitting around. These are scarce resources and where an organization might have just said, “Well, that’s a perm hire,” that might not be possible, even getting a contractor might not be possible. So you might need to outsource it. Or it might be that all of your outsourcing providers are totally tied up. Or it’s such an emerging skill, that you need a freelancer who’s sitting somewhere around the world who can do some really clever specialist stuff for you. But in terms of how you drive those choices, and whether it’s TNM versus outcome, versus perm hire versus Freelancer versus employee consultancy type models and things like that and how do you look to drive that? 

Ben Weston:         49:01     Yeah, it’s interesting. So, we’re fortunate enough to have exec sponsorship for this program. And that obviously goes a long way. Although we’re complex. It’s not like we have 40 different businesses within our organization. We’re segmented in quite a clear, clean way. And if you can get that C-suite approval to say, “Listen, we want to know what our p&l, our businesses is investing in. You must go this way. It must go centrally to procurement. They will advise you, if you have any questions, they will answer those questions. But come in, tell us what the need is, be prepared for questions such as, what is the scope of work? I know that’s the obvious one with services procurement, but what’s the duration? What’s the time commitment? What are the outcomes? What do you deem to be the return on investment?” If procurement can see that bit early on, they can achieve two things, they can say, “Okay, so this project, we don’t believe we have the people internally, you want a consultancy to come in, do a deep dive and an overview of this part of the business, come up with some strategies for how we can upskill our people through l&d processes? How we can decide what we want to build, buy, borrow? How we can look at, maybe a hybrid of services procurement with contingent labor or time and materials?” That sounds like a sensible piece of work. But it’s a strategy piece of work. That is consultancy, let’s look at those milestones and look at what BP achieves at the end of it, once they pay the invoices, I think, we are obviously going to get requesters that disagree with our stance, but what we’re actually finding from consultation is so long as we can really hone in on the key questions. They actually want back guidance; no one wants to be non-compliance in the eyes of the C-suite. They just know that they need to move at 100 miles an hour. And they’ve got projects that they’re juggling. And actually, what we’re finding, and I found this everywhere I’ve worked is people want to be a part of the strategy, they want to be a part of the solution. But when they’ve got someone above them, because everyone has a boss saying, “How are you doing with this? When will this be delivered?” The answer is not normally, “Well, I’m still trying to work through with procurement how I should get the people on board?” Their managers gonna say, “Just get them on board, I approve it. It’s my budget.” So what we’ve done with our C-suite is we’ve got to a point where actually there’s an approval layer before it then comes through the financial approval layer. And part of that approval is have you gone to procurement, and consulted them on the most efficient way to market? Not many companies have that benefit. And I’m eternally grateful for working here, and having that kind of power behind our strategy, as well as the fact that the strategy isn’t just clear, but it’s actually quite exciting as well. But the triage piece, I’ve spoken to have some of my peer network, and some of them have tried it in pockets, what we’re trying to do is say, “Everyone that comes into our business needs to go through this, and it needs to align with permanent and non-permanent hiring activity, and you will get a consistent service. And if you come to us with the right information, we’ll give you the right answer.” So there is a trust there. But the consistency normally tackles nine out of 10 questions, the one that isn’t normally answered is, “Yeah, but do you really understand what I do in the business? It’s really nice.” We sat there going, “Sometimes yes, we think we do but other times we go no, we don’t, help me.” This sounds really cool. And that’s where you bring the supplies to the fault. 

Jonny Dunning:   53:15     Yeah. And I like the fact that in that scenario procurement is acting and is should be seen as a facilitator, not a blocker. As in, too often, the kind of old school view can be that procurement are a barrier. But in this process, it’s trying to help the business, it’s trying to help the stakeholder get better results, because it all aligns with strategy, we’ll come onto the strategic side of it in a minute, because I think it’s a good way to kind of loop it all up. But again, it’s data. Just winding back, a second, another thing you said was about having this as like an on mass thing, not just like in selected areas, you’re going to learn quicker, aren’t you? The function that’s delivering, it’s gonna have all data points coming in, and you’re able to see what’s coming out the other end? So not only are you going to capture more information to be able to use, retrospectively, but you are going to be able to refine the function far more rapidly. Because you’re just going through this iterative process where you’re dealing with problems as they come up.

Ben Weston:         54:22     My function ranges from, we’re looking at ERP strategy. We don’t think we’ve got all the skills internally, but part of whatever we come up with and bring to you procurement needs to include the upskilling of our people on an ongoing basis in data science, in what we want to hold internally and what we want to partner with organizations with rather than just buying off the shelf and expecting it to evolve itself? It ranges from that type of plastic work that I’m used to, Jonny, to projects focused on Real Estate for EV charging hubs across Europe. It’s so interesting that the growth of our charge master an EV businesses where we’re looking for a niche consultancy who have advised other transforming energy companies on how best to bid for real estate, on the highways in Belgium, to build our new charging station and get to this net zero number by this date on our 2030 Germany? It’s fascinating. If you treat it that way, if you look at it on an email, it’s, “I don’t have a clue what supply I should advise.” But if you really get into the discussion and talk about where the stakeholder has come from themselves, and what they know about the markets, and who they’d like us to speak to? Everyone has access, every procurement function that I’m aware of, has access to insights, so long as they know what to look for. But that’s a strategy in itself. And then when you get to the point around now, once we’ve identified who we should go to for maybe a three bid and a buy type process, what should we purchase? We’re certainly going like, “We need a bit more time on this call. Let’s sit down.” But it’s variety. It’s great. Back to my earlier on, so what we’ve tried to do is apply consistency across the group. For that, if we take the key principles of triage, which is, what is it you’re looking to deliver? And who is out there to be able to deliver this? And what do you want VPs part to be in that? And what do you want the external partner to be? Well yet to come up with anything that takes us too far, wrong or often in the wrong direction.

Jonny Dunning:   56:57     So, all of this activity, so what driving it in the first place, and what it’s spitting out at the other end, or what you’re collecting, in terms of information. This all kind of loops up into the strategy really, doesn’t it? So we talked about how crucial it is? I totally agree with the human psychology point that you made, of course, people want to be bought into the strategy, where we’re part of something, a part of a journey with rowing across the Atlantic, or whatever we need to, we’re not just rowing, we’re rowing to Trinidad or whatever it might be, it’s understanding that makes such a difference. So the strategy can really drive that process, but also the strategy around which workforce channels to utilize or just the idea that “There are lots of different ways to get it done. And we want to do it the best way?” Data just plays such a key role in that. So with the triage, you’re capturing data, but also the triage, you’re using data so there seems to be like, there’s a bit of an obvious kind of feedback loop there?

Ben Weston:         58:11     Definitely.

Jonny Dunning:   58:18     You saying, it kind of loops it up, you’ve got this feedback of overarching strategy, driving decisions, triage, collecting information, but also being driven by information to say, “Okay, what we see is, this type of decision needs to move down this line, or actually, there’s a regulatory change that’s come in that needs to move this over here, or this consideration needs to come in.” But also, there’s when you’re looking at results, if you can take pieces of work that needed to be done, and look at how long they took and how much they cost and whether they were done well, and what the outcomes or outputs were or what the business received, what the return on investment was? Then you can start looking back, you can start predicting forwards, type of channel, type of supplier, even down to individual suppliers, kind of in the perfect world that I talked about at the beginning of our call. What’s your view on that in terms of how that loop can best operate?

Ben Weston:         59:13     I completely agree. And I know we’ve talked about this before, triage is effectively a reflection of your strategy. So you have to get it right at the foundational level, not just the suite C-suite at the top but everyone that has a touch point into it. So a lot of my work is done in terms of ensuring that my category strategy is up to speed with all of my colleagues that work in our procurement sourcing and contract enablement functions. When something comes to them, they should have clear guidance from myself, my manager, my colleagues to say, “Okay, what was it Ben said?” And you can say, “Okay, the value is this, the supply that they’re requesting to be included in the next bid is this, in fact, am I able to bid? Or have they sold source?” Because we don’t want that in great chunks either. We talk a lot internally about competitive tension and procurements responsibility to ensure that, yes, we are spending money on the right initiatives. But can procurement look into the eyes of our peers across our company and say, “Well, not only did we get approval, but it’s a good thing to do. But actually, we can tell you that we got a good deal as well.”

Jonny Dunning:   1:00:37  That’s such a beautiful part of it, really. I mean, the yardstick is something like what? 20% of have a direct award versus some sort of competitive tender?

Ben Weston:         1:00:49  Yeah, and most of us are on that journey towards it. I think it’s safe to say. I think, if you get triage rights, and triage reflects the strategy, as we said, that it leads to all the really exciting stuff. So if I was to break it down, firstly channels, so triage, and the info that comes from that can come to advancements on low touch, digitized channels, they lead to ease of orders, encouraged in competitive bidding, our ability to much more simply through marketplace type solutions, we can embed DNI and ESG ambitions into those, that then leads to the analytics and the integrations. So we can use that data. And the data points to facilitate discussions that have acquired internally, such as systems access, ID on security passes, everything that feeds through our system and goes to allocation of cost ultimately, and where we’re investing? And then you get to the really cool stuff around the integrated approach to your service. We toy with the demand for bots, we talked a little bit about the upskilling of the workforce through l&d programs, and identifying where we have a shortfall. And more importantly, a frequent gap that we go externally for, that should be supplemented through the rescaling and upskilling of our people. And then it kind of supports the office footprint. So those are all of the strategy outputs, if you like, on the way to our utopia, which obviously then includes the unlocking of savings potential, and the return on investment for all of these technologies that we’re looking at as well.

Jonny Dunning:   1:02:48  Yeah, and it also means that when somebody is coming to a triage desk, it’s in their interest, because it’s in the interest of the overall strategy of the company, and it’s not something that’s just being created to make their life more difficult. It’s something the approach is fundamentally being woven into the business’s success, what the business is doing, where the business needs to go? So, inevitably, that should mean that the triage process should tie in really well with actually their objectives. within the organization.

Ben Weston:         1:03:23  My colleagues laugh with me sometimes about my sheer love of context, but when it comes to the purchases of the services that we look after, for me, you get no greater buyer than turning around to someone afterwards and saying, “Here are the outputs. We’ve got all the data now.” We have it snippets now. And we going to have the largest piece very soon. But to actually turn around to them and say, “Here’s what we use those outputs for, here’s what we’re now building? And by the way, would you like to troll some of it if you build a bit of a minimum viable product for you?” And their strategic partners for life after that.

Jonny Dunning:   1:04:01  It’s real, isn’t it? It feeds into those lap.

Ben Weston:         1:04:05  It’s tangible. Yeah.

Jonny Dunning:   1:04:07  Yeah. And it ties into those natural human desires to, that classic thing of, in people’s annual review, it’s not just about how much you get paid? It’s about what you feel like you’ve achieved, what you have achieved and what you’ve been part of? And, again, it’s that objective, and that kind of meaning to what you do? And I think that’s fascinating, particularly when you look at the talent shortages, because that’s a big draw if people can go and work for a company where brand is extremely important, and what they’re doing, how that matters to the world? Particularly the younger generations coming into the workforce, those are critical factors for them. But, you could theoretically work for a company that’s got grand ambitions, but that you just feel completely disconnected from and you might feel very disappointed and disillusioned, so, I think...

Ben Weston:         1:04:55  And very segmented as a function as well. So my current manager, huge experience from the buyer side. So I think we bonded over the view of what partnership should look like between buyer and services? But, she’s become a bit of a mentor of mine. And she’s got this view that we all tried to kind of work along with which I really bought into, which is, “If you feel like you’re stuck in the mire every day and you’re fixing issues, normally, the underlying issue with that is the strategy that underpins it all. And if you start to assess where your time is swallowed up with, I suppose you’d call it operational or tactical type queries that you sit there going, this is part of my strategy. It really is, it’s the areas you need to go after and come up with a strategy that handles it. And that way, if you tackle that, and there’s an answer for people,” I mean, obviously, my utopia is that it’s automated. And I can kind of say, “Oh, yeah, you just need to look here, I’ve written it here, go into the triage, it tells you this, it tells you that,” then you really get into the conversations around sustainability, diversity, return on investment, in some of the technologies that are going to help you continue to transform. But it really resonated with me coming from the services side, where as a services partner, have I clogged up the buying side channel, and actually how much of it was caused by me, and how much of it was caused by them and lack of clarity and what they’re looking for me as a bidder, and hopefully as an awarded partner to actually deliver?

Jonny Dunning:   1:06:48  Yeah, I think it’s gonna be a fascinating process for you. As I’ve said to several people that I know, in the kind of services procurement world, it’s a learning process for everybody, services have been around for a long time. But in terms of the diversity of services, the range of services that are procured, the way that they’re procured, where they’re procured from? The way that suppliers operate is just changing and is moving so quickly. And more and more and more of businesses spend is on services. It’s a fascinating area where there’s just so much scope for good things to happen. So although there may be some, no doubt, pain and brain searching to start with, and like you say, sometimes, when you’re digging a hole, you’ve got to look up, you got to look up around you, “Oh, actually, I’m doing that for, I was just carrying on digging.” There are hurdles to getting it moving. But once, if you’ve got the buy in, if you’ve got the structure, you’re on track, and ultimately, if it ties in strategically, and you’re doing it for the right reasons, then there’s going to be all these good things that come out of it. So must be really exciting.

Ben Weston:         1:08:06  For partner as well, hopefully, for the services companies, that’s the aim, “Is that mutual benefit?”

Jonny Dunning:   1:08:14  Well, exactly, they’re crucial to the business. And it’s a question of businesses understanding which ones are most crucial, which areas they’re most crucial in and maybe understanding where some others are falling short and blocking opportunities to different types of suppliers that you could potentially utilize? And it’s just having an open minded approach of, “This is a collaboration. You’re working with us, we’re working with you, it needs to be mutually beneficial.” And coming back to your points around ESG sustainability that needs to be alignment. And that was one of the things that Andrea spoke about very well was around the alignment of the values between supplier and buyer. And it’s all very well having internal policies around certain things, but is that reflected in critical suppliers that are to some extent representing the organization, but to another extent, operating in tandem, not as part of the organization but it very much in tandem with the organization. So I just feel like there’s so many benefits to this process, it’s so exciting.

Ben Weston:         1:09:22  Yeah, and that’s before you even talk about tier two as well. Your suppliers’ suppliers. But yeah, I mean, I couldn’t have said it better. I really loved that. I made a couple of notes there because we are looking at some of those measurements to be disclosed in our bits as well. 

Jonny Dunning:   1:09:42  Really!? 

Ben Weston:         1:09:42  It is very interesting and it be will badge of honor for organizations, and if they can disclose some of this, it really helps us with our storytelling. And it might not be a tick box in whatever system we select. But if you know your suppliers and you know your stakeholders, you can really align them and get into a different level of conversation. 

Jonny Dunning:   1:10:03  Yeah, and you’re building better relationships. 

Ben Weston:         1:10:05  Completely. 

Jonny Dunning:   1:10:07  Excellent stuff. Cool. Well, listen, I really, really appreciate your time, that is extremely interesting, I feel that there’s some scenarios there that we could definitely explore in more detail. So maybe, when you’re a little bit further down the line with what you’re doing at the moment, when you’ve got some spare time, in a few months, we can maybe get together again, I’d definitely love to do that. But I’m particularly glad that we were able to look at that triage side of things and the concepts around that because I do think it’s very central and the way that it like you say, it kind of reflects strategy. I like that. That really makes a lot of sense to me. And I think I found that really, really interesting. So yeah, really appreciate you taking the time.

Ben Weston:         1:10:46  Jonny, I’ve loved it. Thank you very much. I was a little nervous, but you’ve been a really gracious host, I listened in so it’s gone, as well as I could have hoped. So hopefully people enjoy it. But real honor, thank you for having me and to let us talk a little bit about it. We really excited. We think it’s the best way to really kind of transform our business with the help of our partners. Absolutely.

Jonny Dunning:   1:11:14  Brilliant stuff. Really appreciate you taking the time to chat and hopefully we can catch up again soon.

Ben Weston:         1:11:19  Looking forward to it. Thanks Jonny.

Jonny Dunning:   1:11:20  Thanks. Take care. 

Ben Weston:         1:11:21  Cheers.



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