Wednesday, 30 January 2013


There have been some changes at Procurex - the conference and exhibition focussing on public sector procurement, run by BIP Solutions.  Previously there were two events - Procurex (for Scotland in Glasgow), and Procurex National for England and Wales.

The events are now being structured on a regional basis, with separate events for Scotland, Ireland, North of England, Midlands and South of England.  Does not yet seem to be one for Wales.

I have attended these as both a delegate and a member of BIP Solutions team, and they are a very interesting and stimulating day.  There are exibitors, some top notch speakers, and short seminars on a variety of topics.

I may be involved with Procurex North at Old Trafford in Manchester on 25th April 2013, where I would be particularly keen to listen to Sally Collier, Deputy Chief Procurement Officer at the Cabinet Office talking about the new EU Procurement Directives.  If I am there, I hope I am not scheduled against her.  She is giving the same presentation at the Midlands event on 12th March, and the South event on 18th April,  where they will also have Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude.  So that is your opportunity to ask questions about the different approaches employed by him and Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for communities and Local Government.

Further details are here.  Don't be put off by the threat that I might be there - I shall probably be presenting Professional Procurement Skills in Dubai instead - details of that here.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


This is not a blog with particularly much thought behind it (are any of them you may well ask), but I am in favour of High Speed 2.
It will make little to no difference to my working life, as even if it arrives on time I should be on track for retirement (pardon the pun).

That this is a the first major investment in new train lines north of London for nearly a century shows how little we as a country have responded to the changes in behaviour and interconnectedness over that time.  I rarely work within walking distance of my house (apart from when I am working from my office),  and the motorways are increasingly full at all times of day and in all weathers.  So we use the trains. 

2 and a bit hours to London is not bad but 1 and a bit hours is better.  I find it difficult to grasp that people value their own time so little that they dont want to save 2 hours on the round trip.  Obviously they are made of hardier stuff than me, and are never resort to thinking "Oh its too much trouble", as I do.

Are there better things to spend the money on?  Possibly.  That is a choice and decision that a lot of people have opinions about - mostly of the "spend it on this thing I know about" variety.  In fact HS2 may be one of those things.  Meanwhile Thameslink and CrossRail will cost about the same and are hardly on people's radar.

Should we protect the countryside?  Oh please.  We are not as a nation rich enough that we can afford to have a perfectly landscaped environment everywhere.  No nation is.  So again there are choices, and sometimes perfectly nice places will need to have train lines, wind turbines or electricity pilons (or all 3) in order that the country as a whole benefits.  And a damaged view is not the same as a broken leg - take pictures and photoshop them if you must.

Then there are the usual "it will never work" voices, that I hoped would have been at least slowed down by the Olympics.

Personally I think the Birmingham -Manchester line should go on at full speed to Glasgow.  That would do wonders for both Scotland and places on the way such as Carlisle and Preston.
Will it really benefit the North?  There are arguments both ways, but I think it is better to have improved infrastructure than not.

In the meantime it will create employment and economic impact, and at the end of it we will be able to travel that much more easily and quickly. 

In short, I'm in favour.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

European Union Membership

Well, this is the hot topic of the moment, and probably will continue to be so for 4 more years until the in/out referendum.  It is one that many people have fixed opinions about, and both sides are quite happy to be selective about which facts they consider and which historical arguments they draw upon.  I don't expect many people to change their minds, though I could be wrong.  That means we shall be leaving the EU.

I think that is a mistake.  I don't expect my views to change any ones mind, and I don't expect you will change mine but now is a time for people to be clear about what they think and why so that the small number of people who do want to form (rather than express) their opinion have a range of points of view to consider.

Many of the standard arguments both for and against are rehearsed and reheated constantly, so let me throw in a few perhaps less common points of view.

Firstly, people are not clear what the EU actually is.  The media has carried out a fairly constant war against "Europe" for a generation, with scant regard for truth or accuracy.  It is trivially easy to find examples of blatant lies portrayed as truth by the tabloid press - try here for a start.  So people in the UK do not have a realistic view of what they will be voting about and hear a constant diet of negative stories about the EU. 
The politicians are no better, and claim EU successes as their own, whilst blaming "Bruxelles" for anything they don't want to be criticised for.  None of the major parties has been honest and clear about what they stand for (UKIP is of course an exception), and why we are members.  Remember historically the Conservative party was pro-Europe, and the Labour party was against.

Second, the argument for a referendum because this generation has not had a chance to vote on the EU is facile.  We have also not had a chance to vote on the act of Union, Universal enfranchisement, or the repeal of the corn laws.  We do not need approval in each generation for previous acts of parliament - otherwise parliament would do nothing but spend each session re-approving old laws.  The argument is made by people who don't like us being in Europe.  If they win the referendum they will regard the argument as settled for all time.  If they lose in another 20 years they will start the same "chance to vote" rhetoric.

Thirdly, all the arguments for leaving the EU seem to me to apply Scotland leaving the UK, though curiously few people seem to want to point that out.  I think the EU referendum increases the risk that Scotland will vote to separate from the UK to remain in the EU - which I am not in favour of.  I think the Union is good for both countries.

Fourthly, some of the discussion about the negotiation before the referendum does not take account of basic negotiation strategy.  To get something you need to have something to trade.  It is far from clear that the other EU countries actually want the UK to stay enough to allow us to wreck the existing accords.  You have to look to the BATNA or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.  For the EU the BATNA is to allow us to have our referendum - if we vote to stay in we are hobbled for the future.  If we vote to leave, they carry on with the Union of 27 (Croatia will have joined taking us up to 28 states) and nearly half a billion people without a big but difficult state - the French and Germans will love it.  For the UK the BATNA is a vote where leaving becomes a more attractive option because we will be humiliated if we stay, and if we vote to leave we shall effectively have to start negotiating again from day one to secure our exit and our place in the world.  That is a terrible place to start a negotiating position.  They hold a much better hand than we do, so why would they give us any more than they already have?

On top of all that there are the economic benefits of being part of the EU (we already have the most flexible labour laws in the EU - do we really want to go down to Asian sweatshop standards?), which is the richest economic block in the world (yes, richer and more populous than the USA).  Immigration (including economic migration) I see as a good thing that has allowed us to avoid the worst to the ageing population/pensions crisis - I recognise that this is a very minority view in the UK, but I still hold to it.

So I don't expect to have provided any food for thought, and certainly not to have changed your mind, but I think we all have an obligation to state our positions and views clearly at what is going to be a defining time for our nation.  For good or ill we are unlikely to be the same after the referendum.  What I fear is that as a nation we will vote for our national decline and irrelevancy.

Monday, 21 January 2013

More books

As has been hinted at in previous posts, I now have the go-ahead for two new books - The Quick Guide to Purchasing Management, and the Quick Guide to Purchasing Negotiation.  They will probably come out in that order because I have more notes for the former than the latter.  I suspect there will be more interest in the Negotiation book, but I hope I am wrong.
The books will be shorter than Excellence in Public Sector Procurement, but are intended to be in depth studies rather than general introductions.  They will be applicable to both public and private sector Purchasing. 

The timescale for publication relies on me writing them, but I am hopeful that both (or at least one) will see print this year.  That might seem slow, but so am I and so is the print publication cycle. We have not yet decided on whether will be electronic editions, and that probably depends on the Kindle sales we have achieved for other books - which I shall not find out about until March or so.

I might trial some sections of the books hear, so please feel free to comment and improve them ahead of publicaction.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Blockbusters goes into administration

Yesterday I said that all Blockbusters could do was manage the decline of their business model - it appears I was quite accurate.  They have gone into administration - see here.

Connecting Manufacturing 28 Feb 2013

Here are the flier and the booking form for the event

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Demise of HMV

Nothing could save HMV - the future (for good or ill) is digital downloads.  All HMV, Waterstones and Blockbusters can hope to do is manage the decline down to a niche of collectors who actually like the physical objects. 
If you accept that what we want is the music/film/words, then CDs/DVDs/Books are just the media and shops selling them are doomed.

Actually doomed is the wrong word.  It suggests something that is going to happen, when it already has.

Myself, I used to love shops - but I don't need or use them now apart from to find things to download.  It's part of what killed the Word, you know... my favourite magazine apart from the Economist, which incidentally I now read exclusively in an electronic version.  The paper copy goes into the bin each weekend, because it arrives after I have already read much of the newpaper.

This change may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it is here and no doubt people will continue to talk about it until our generation(s) shuffle off this mortal coil.  But the younger generations will struggle to understand why we are nostalgic.  Why worry about something being replaced by something that gives you what you want quicker (and cheaper, with more choice)?

Interesting article about this from their marketing agency here, which lead me to think about the book How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins.

In business you need to worry about this sort of thing if you intend to still be in business in say 20 years.  Will we need taxis if we have self-driving cars?  (yes, until the drink driving rules change, but after that?)  Will we need lorry drivers?

I think my core businesses of trainer and consultant are safe for my working life time (30 years at most), but I would not like to bet that they will be in 50 years.  How about your job?