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Developing commercial capability

Watch Adrian Kamellard explain how new recruitment processes and development opportunities in the civil service will develop commercial capability.
ADRIAN KAMELLARD: I’m Adrian Kamellard, and I’m heading up the development of the commercial profession out of the Cabinet Office. Well, the Civil Service and the delivery of public services ultimately requires a range of really excellent commercial relationships, whether they’re contracts or other ways of bringing in the private sector. We can’t deliver public services without that. And to do it well, we need really excellent commercial capabilities. I think there’s been a recognition that the government hasn’t handled these relationships very well all the time. In fact, there have been quite a few studies, PAC committees and NEO reports which demonstrates that we don’t have enough capability, we don’t have enough capacity.
And this has been recognised right at the top of the Civil Service. So what we’re undertaking now is a real focused effort to improve our capability and our capacity and to professionalise the commercial function. If you were developing a career in the Civil Service up until now, the primary focus has been on policy making. And that’s very important. Don’t get me wrong. But now it’s recognised that the Civil Service, to be successful, has to be very good in terms of its commercial capability. And that means roles will recognise its importance and the training to support those roles will recognise that.
There are quite a number of different elements to it, but I think it is generally recognised that the civil service has spent a lot of time on the middle stage of getting deals done. So the process of negotiating contracts and writing them down. The trouble is is that’s often where the value is yet to be found. And in fact, what we have to do is spend a lot more time on preparing for the procurements, so engaging with the market and then shaping with the market. And once a contract is signed, we have to spend a lot more time on extracting value from the deal, through contract management and deal with problems which arise.
So there will be a lot more emphasis on the broader part of the life cycle as well as the part where the Civil Service has traditionally spent its time. So ultimately, any business relationship is anchored in the contract. But that is a piece of paper. And in fact, you’ll find the paper more often than not stays in the drawer once the deal is done. It is getting the relationship right, getting the strategy that underpins the relationship right, and putting a real focus on making sure that the business outcomes and policy outcomes are secured. It’s really important that the whole of the Civil Service gains a level of commercial acumen and experience which is not there at the moment.
So for the commercial function to be effective and for policy makers to see their policies actually have the desired effect, they need to understand the commercial imperative that underpins the way that contractors will provide services. They need to understand how markets work. They need to understand how plausible it is that their policies will actually be operable in a way that the market is likely to work. So that level of understanding should be a cornerstone in future of the way any policy maker goes about his or her job.

We interviewed Adrian Kamellard, who is Director, ‪‬‬Commercial Professional Development at the Cabinet Office, UK Government.

In this video, he discusses the problems the UK Civil Service have had with their lack of commercial and contract management skills and they need to develop commercial capability and that this will change with new recruitment processes and employee development opportunities in the future.

He talks about how important it is:

‘… that the whole of the Civil Service gains a level of commercial acumen and experience which is not there at the moment’.
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