The role of a CCS Strategic Business Manager

Lucy Flint, Strategic Business Manager for the Crown Commercial Service, outlines how Strategic Business Managers can really add value to a procurement agreement within the NHS

The role of a CCS Strategic Business Manager (SBM) is primarily about relationship management. It’s my job to work with customers to help ensure there is a proactive approach to their procurement needs.

If I can help CCS better understand a customer’s perspective and work with them to save their organisation time and identify efficiencies, UK citizens benefit from improved experiences, service innovations and public spending reductions.

In my view, the three most important aspects of CCS’s role are that we add value, we’re a free resource and we’re driven to help support the best outcome for the customer.

I have 13 years’ experience of working with the public sector in HR and recruitment roles – eight years of this managing my previous employers NHS business. I have learned procurement can and should be a key driver of organisations’ business transformation, though those involved in procurement can often be undervalued and restricted by the conflicting pressures of different parts of an organisation.

Issues that often create procurement challenges include stakeholder non-compliance to public contract regulations, time constraints which affect the ability to plan, limited resources for contract management and lack of market engagement – again often due to time constraints.

This is why SBMs like me can really add value to a procurement. We are a free resource who can provide the time to add value to procurement teams through supporting training, accessing knowledge about markets that an organisation values. We genuinely offer a fresh perspective which will subsequently make contract management easier.

Recently I’ve found myself bringing a focus to issues such as social value, contract management, collaboration and evaluation of the best routes to market.

We’ve a strong history of working with the NHS, the value of this can be seen most recently through our membership of the Workforce Alliance, through which CCS and NHS Procurement in Partnership are working together to deliver health workforce services.

The collaboration ensures our customers have easy and quick access to a sustainable workforce, and it’s part of a long-term plan to deliver a whole portfolio of health workforce services to the NHS. The strength of this collaboration will be a huge asset to the NHS workforce and associated procurement.

We continually listen to our NHS customers and develop our frameworks in tune with the requests and advice we receive from them. But the only way we can get this insight is through listening and learning.

Part of my role is to build networks across the health sector and find out from customers what their challenges have been. SBMs at CCS operate on a regional level so we understand not only how customers operate in their part of the UK, but also how they network and collaborate with each other. This helps me and my colleagues understand where CCS can add value.

Recently we worked with the regional Heads of Procurement Group in the North East and Cumbria and identified an opportunity to support in upskilling their workforce. So we partnered with the NHS Skills Development Network and have embarked on a programme to add value, develop efficiencies and support technical skills development and better use of frameworks.

By working closely across the regions and supporting procurement journeys SBMs effectively can become part of the extended team for procurement departments. The result is providing the region with access to a powerful network opportunity, more time to collaborate regionally on larger projects such as linen and laundry, as well as aggregation opportunities for items such as laptops.

Such work has shown us that customers want procurement processes to be simpler: they want easy routes to market, with clear guidance, available support and minimal intervention from their own procurement teams. We’ve been listening and in response have tried to adopt more effective procurement measures such as simplified contracts and more Digital Purchasing Systems (DPSs).

The coronavirus pandemic has seen the advisory part of my role enhanced. Colleagues and I have supported local networking among procurement teams across the regions, and we have also developed ways of supporting each other with the new challenges we have faced.

For example, we’ve adjusted our training offer and have taken it entirely online – ensuring we have continued to deliver what our customers require.

We have held five virtual events throughout May, June and July – each with delegate registrations of over 170.

I believe the demands of the last few months have strengthened our customer relationships, and I hope we’ve pleasantly surprised them with the speed and efficiency CCS has met their needs.

But it’s been a balancing act for us, we’ve tried to remain vigilant to the pressures our NHS customers have faced over the last few months and have tried hard to respect those, only offering practical input when appropriate.

NHS customers wanting to take advantage of the kind of support CCS can offer through its national network of SBMs should get in touch by visiting our dedicated web page.