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Understanding your suppliers

Darren Sivapalan of Crown Commercial Services talks about the importance of managing relationships with government strategic suppliers.
DARREN SIVAPALAN: My name’s Darren Sivapalan. I’m the senior commercial manager in the Crown Commercial Service’s Commercial Intelligence team. So we’re a function within Crown Commercial Service that looks to relate and manage our relationship with government strategic suppliers. It’s very much about understanding how we relate to our suppliers, the relationship that we have with them, the performance which they provide for those contracts. And to ensure that the relationship is healthy, it provides an effective response to the taxpayer in terms of services that these supplies provide. You will hear much about engaging with the market very early on in terms of effectively procuring or buying.
But there’s also the contract period and the importance of understanding the performance of that supplier, innovating with them, looking at savings, and trying to ensure that those suppliers, and particularly for us in terms of these large suppliers who are effectively delivering a number of different services, that we ensure that they are responsive to our need, they evolve what they do, and they remain interested in working with government as a customer. I think in terms of interest, in terms of what we do in the strategic supplier programme and in commercial intelligence, you can make it very simple. As a buyer– as all of us are buyers– we need to understand what’s available.
We need to understand what a supplier is capable of doing and what they’re not capable of doing. And if you’re looking at buying a service, or you’re looking at buying something that’s more long-term, your views in terms of what you wanted here and what you want there evolve. And it’s very important that we keep track of that, we understand whether that supplier remains capable of delivering that service. So whether you’re a private sector buyer, a public sector buyer, a civil service buyer, the concept of understanding your supplier is incredibly important. So I think actually what we do in terms of commercial intelligence and supply relationship reads very well to the ethics of being a responsible buyer.
Because in essence we are ensuring we understand the supply market. So we’re not away from them. We understand exactly what the pressures and tensions they face in terms of delivering our services. We never ever– and I think this is something that the civil service has understood now– we don’t give up what we do. We make contract what we do, but we’d never give up. It’s still our responsibility. And it’s very important for us to relate and to understand the tensions that the suppliers may face in delivering that. How that affects ours decisions is down to us, it’s down to how we translate that through procurement regulations and how we translate that through our civil service code.
But actually I think it’s a very healthy way to engage commercially with suppliers. There’s no longer a real opportunity or responsibility on us just to stand back and say, this is your problem. I think it’s about that collaboration. I think the more we do this, the more effective we’ll be as a civil service buyer. Well I look at it very much as a buyer. So I buy every day, we all buy every day, and we all make buying decisions. And this is part of what government does. But it may be it does on a slightly larger level and a larger capacity.
And I think, as I said, the commissioner, the manager, the policymaker, the individual who’s relating to government services, has a voice. And supplier relationship allows that voice and allows that senior-level engagement with those strategic suppliers to happen, so what we aspire to deliver actually is delivered.

In this short video interview, Darren Sivapalan, former Senior Commercial Manager, Crown Commercial Services, Commercial Intelligence Team from the UK Government, talks about how the Civil Service aspires to manage relationships with government strategic suppliers.

He also discusses the importance of understanding what suppliers are capable of doing and what are they not capable of doing.

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