In my second and final blog from Sydney (the first is here), I shall be describing what colleagues at the Australian Universities Procurement Network (AUPN) are planning to do to complement the University Procurement Hub and other collaborative activities in HE procurement here in Australia.
Firstly, though, I managed to catch up with Richard Allen yesterday morning at a trendy cafe in Darlington near to his base. It gave me the ideal opportunity to put to him some of the questions that had occurred to me about the University Procurement Hub.
Richard is director of procurement and CPO at the University of Sydney, Australia’s oldest with 54,000 students. According to its 2015 financial statements, the university turns over AUS$1.9bn (£1.08bn) and has net assets of AUS$4.2bn (£2.38bn), so, needless to say, his is a big job. A PPE graduate from the University of Edinburgh with a background in rail and at PwC, he now leads a team of thirteen, including specialists managing all the categories you’d expect. I asked him first why it was felt necessary to partner with Accenture in establishing and operating the hub. (Collectively, 17 universities are investing AUS$20m over five years with the aim of saving AUS$300m NPV.)
“Why we are doing it this way is why we haven’t done so in the past. And as for the investment, it’s equivalent to two FTEs. It’s not big for us at all.” Affordable enough for the third largest university, you might think. But Australian universities do tend to be bigger than their UK counterparts. The UK’s largest, the University of Manchester, were it possible to transport it and its 38,000 students here, would only rank about 13th in the country by size.
Is he happy that a partner incentivised by gainshare won’t sacrifice quality to achieve their targets? “Yes, because the Hub’s members aren’t committed to accept any of the contracts Accenture negotiates for us. The Category Councils will make recommendations, but it will be up to the universities whether they actually take up the deals.” So none of the members are, in fact, committed to the contracts up-front? “No, we can’t do that. But I do believe take-up of the first wave of contracts will be strong and that that will give us the momentum to carry forward into the waves that follow.”
“Once the five-year project is over, and skills and knowledge have been transferred, one of our options will be to establish a procurement consortium like LUPC,” Allen said.
One of the main objectives of the Hub is to uplift its members’ procurement capability. Allen intends to achieve this in partnership with AUPN, which is managed for the sector by Higher Ed Services Pty Ltd (HES), based in Sydney’s business district. On the previous evening, I’d met with HES’s new CEO Andrew Trnacek, himself a former manager at Accenture and latterly a partner at Grant Thornton. Andrew is keen to build on AUPN’s capability offering. At present they offer a procurement maturity self-assessment tool, with which they plan to amass benchmarking data. It sounds very similar in nature to our own PMA.
Andrew and AUPN’s members showed a strong interest in HEPA and in particular, the on-line discussion forum and eLearning package. My hope is that we will be able to reach a more formal partnership agreement to support HE procurement development in both countries. It certainly sounds promising.