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So how can the Olympics help . . . pubic procurement of IT?

August 8, 2012 by gfoss   Comments (0)

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We are all marvelling at the achievement of this wonderful London 2012 Team GB. Even a sceptic like me could be found yesterday, scrabbling around the Olympics website for the remaining tickets  - BMX Cycling are still free if anyone is interested! Is it just me, or am I seeing more runners and cyclists on the road as a result? I can only marvel at team GB's achievement and give credit where credit is due for the organisers and participants.

Why participate in the Olympics?

MONEY cannot be the main motivator for the athletes, as they face uncertain careers in financial terms, but even if this was different as in football, MONEY certainly does not produce the best England football team.

Surely, the main thing that the Olympics offers athletes is the public recognition and promotion of individual leadership in their chosen field. Its using the celebrity culture for something truly aspirational and different, rather than for something depressingly mundane and familiar (eg Channel 4's Big Brother, ITV's X factor, and any number of similarly turgid efforts to attract our attention).

Why host the Olympics?

Is the event good for GB business? Who knows, but Britain's cycling, rowing and horse jumping industries will surely benefit hugely from these wins, as will the athletes involved. But this improvement is hardly justify the cost (£9bn?) Maybe it has more to do with encouraging business and individuals to change their behaviour to align more with that of our Olympians. Its about holding up Olympians as role models for us all to aspire to, not just as individuals and businesses, but as charities, as professions, as trade associations and  . . .last but not least  . . . public services.

Are modern day lives too far removed to be influenced by the Olympian ideals ?

But surely the Olympics is too far removed from every day lives for it to be a useful role model for modern day society? Yes I think this is probably true, given that many of us have desk jobs that involve near zero physical exertion. Competition in our every day activities is in fact extinct in many aspects of public service delivery. It has be been designed out in the procurement process.

Imagine rewarding winning atheletes with a monopoly contract to run in all similar UK events between now and the next Olympics. This kind of award would destroy the very thing that the competition was created to sustain. But thats exactly what happens in public sector procurement. It rewards competition with the opportunity to monopolise.

If only our pubic sector procurement chaps could learn from the Olympics in the selection of public sector contractors. After all, public sector service delivery is NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, so why continue to manage procurements as if they were NASA Lunar launch programmes aiming to establish 5 and 10 year monopoly supply contracts to the usual suspect suppliers? After all, we all know that to many of these monopoly supply contracts suffer from an all too familiar cycle of management failure.

How can we overcome this Lunacy!(forgive the pun)

Our cycling and rowing success is encouraging the retail industry to take up some of the technologies, coaching skills and behaviours of the Olympic teams. So would it be possible to achieve the same changes in public sector procurement and supply chains through national / global participatory events such as  COMPETITIONS, HACKDAYs and CONNECTATHONS?

Surely requirements still need to be captured, solutions specified and acquired? Yes but these buying activities should increasing take account of leadership in the respective sectors and how such leadership is measured in terms of standards.

Can such short term events generate Olympian levels of achievement, commitment and alignment across business and public sector? Something as radical as this is certainly needed to inject some innovation and new thinking into the way our government and industry buys information technology.

Any function which encourages more and more monopoly, when their main purpose is to commoditise, must surely be doing something drastically wrong.

After we have finished all the marvelling at our Olympic success, we should take a look at what lessons exist for the way we do public procurement.