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In conversation

We’ve captured some reflections on what we learnt from lockdown, and how we can support New Zealand’s recovery.

Peter Bollmann – Workplace strategy

Peter Bollmann, Government Property Group's Principal Advisor, talks with Andrew Wharton about how COVID-19 changed the way government works.


Duration: 3:39

Andrew Wharton: Good afternoon Peter. Thanks very much for taking the time to meet with me and have a brief chat about the future of government workplaces. Now obviously the impact of COVID-19 has allowed us to put a new lens over the government property portfolio. What do you see as being the immediate area of focus?

Peter Bollmann: Hi Andrew. I really appreciate the opportunity here. COVID-19 has been all about health, safety and well-being, and our focus on the property strategy or the government workplace strategies as we go forward, is on the health, safety and well-being of staff. We've talked this through with chief executives and they are really keen for for us to actually work on the basis that it's people that's important, not buildings and facilities.

Andrew Wharton: Thanks Peter. It appears that for the most part, lockdown showed us how we can embrace distributed and remote working when we have the support of appropriate technological solutions. Can you tell me how you think we can leverage this experience going forward while still meeting government expectations?

Peter Bollmann: Yeah that's a really interesting one because I don't think we should confuse the fact that we were told to work from home and try to work as opposed to officially working from home, so it's quite a different concept but one of the things that we did find is that people were quite productive. People did get over some of the technological challenges. In fact technology wasn't the barrier that we expected to see. We also found that a lot of chief executives and and management have seen how people can actually work in a much more flexible environment. So I think the State Services Commission have released the new flexible working by default guidelines in recent days and I think that's a really good sign for the way ahead.

Andrew Wharton: Now I understand that there will be an acceleration of the Wellington Regional Hub concept, how has the delivery model for this changed and what do you think activity will look like in these new hubs when they are completed?

Peter Bollmann: So the strategy for the hubs have been developed based on the growth in the public service and the constrained commercial office environment if you like in Wellington particularly and in Auckland as well, but the intent is to actually make sure that the regional hubs we're talking about provide for flexible options and provide for the growth for agencies to actually operate outside of the CBD in effect. I think the next exciting challenge will be how we actually start to work on some of the regional hubs that might be in provincial New Zealand and we do have a couple of agencies who are experiencing quite a lot of growth as a result of COVID-19 and gearing up as a result of that and I would expect to see some regional hubs coming up more in provincial areas that will allow public servants to work a lot more flexibly, whether it's in a regional hub, whether it's in the Wellington CBD or Auckland or whether it's in smaller local work centres co-working type space, so flexibility I think is going to be the byword for the way public servants will operate into the future.

Andrew Wharton: That's great Peter. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and for sharing your wisdom and insights.

John Ivil – Lessons from lockdown

John spent his lockdown at the National Crisis Management Centre. He talks to Steph Unka about the value of cross-agency collaboration, and the essential skills all procurement professionals need. John Ivil is NZGPP’s General Manager.


Duration: 6:54

Stephanie Unka: All right, good morning John.

Thank you for joining us today. I understand that your lockdown was a little bit different to most other people's. Can you talk us through a little bit around what you've been doing during lockdown and your role at the National Crisis Management Centre?

John Ivil: Yeah well I guess it has been a bit different.

I sort of got a tap on the shoulder saying that they need my help with the National Crisis Management Centre and I sort of went along and found out I was going to be a response manager there - leading, coordinating, facilitating, functional activity across the NCMC.

So you're almost like a ringmaster at the circus, trying to get everything coordinated and facilitated so it was quite fun. But we actually, NCMC, you know we're not necessarily the doers.

We actually coordinate activity through specialist agencies or individuals to respond to a crisis. And we actually use the coordinated incident management system or CIMS structure - and that expertise can differ depending on what the crisis is that we're trying to manage.

But it was fun, it's great to be back in the procurement community, but it was a great experience for seven or eight weeks that I was there.

Stephanie Unka: That’s great and I hear there's a lot of cross agency collaboration while you were there. Can you talk a little bit around the agencies that were involved and what sorts of roles that were involved, and perhaps what we can take back to our BAU at NZGPP?

John Ivil: NCMC is staffed by individuals from all sorts of backgrounds - ranging from enthusiastic amateurs to seasoned emergency professionals, and I guess everyone brought something to the table. Key skills, as I see it in an emergency or in a crisis, pragmatism, decision-making ability, empathy and resilience.

And they’re all important things for procurers in their day-to-day life or just anything really. The ability to move things along and lean forward into issues.

You know when we first set up the NCMC for the COVID-19 response, it was initially staffed by emergency management specialists from around the country. People who were part of the Civil Defence Emergency Management team and they were soon supplemented from staff from all different areas, and when staff came in they actually add value to it.

They provide different perspectives and different connections across the network and I think that's sort of what helped New Zealand actually get through this crisis.

Everyone putting their hand up and adding their particular skill to it.

Stephanie Unka: And you've touched on a little bit there about procurement skills and procurement people. Can you talk us through what your thoughts are about procurement in a crisis and the role of procurement in a crisis?

John Ivil: I guess NCMC needed to operate like any good procurement project.

Lots of collaboration, understand the goal at hand and you know there's no dumb questions.

And I think that's sort of what we need to continue in a procurement frame as well. Make sure we're pragmatic and listen to people and what they want and actually deliver not necessarily what you think but what's actually needed you know to solve the crisis or to create an intervention that's going to work and last.

Stephanie Unka: Of course out of any good crisis there are going to be some lessons. Can you talk us through the lessons you think that procurement can take from the pandemic and the response?

John Ivil: I think one of the key things we've learned as a profession is that you need to be able to be agile in your thinking, in your actions.

I think you need to understand not only what's happening near here and now but actually the implications for the future and the decisions that you actually make.

I think all the people that I've seen, not only in the NCMC but throughout agencies, procurement staff particularly have really shone through this whole crisis.

They’ve got on, they've added value, they've provided a commercial perspective but they've also provided a people perspective and understanding what to do.

They're organised, they understand how markets work but you know they're not magicians, they can't just pull things out of a hat. But you need to be able to communicate well to keep people informed when things are happening and why.

Stephanie Unka: Thanks for that.

We’ve got a few seconds left is there anything else that you wanted to touch on?

John Ivil: I think people skills, collaboration and understanding the views of others, being smart and making quick decisions and being agile are things that you know we need to focus on in the future, we need to make sure that you know we're not just waiting around for a perfect solution for things.

You know a perfect solution isn't always available in a crisis and the opportunity cost for waiting for a perfect solution can be too high for all parties involved that should actually filter through into our procurement activities.

We need to think about what and how and what the implications are on the timeliness.

Now New Zealand Government Procurement and Property are actually in the process of developing a recovery plan as to how government procurement can support New Zealand's economic and social recovery and we’re going to hear a lot more about that shortly.

It's really an extension of broader outcomes. It's not a replacement for but it is going to require people to think a little bit differently to understand what needs to be done and agile in their thinking and hopefully you’ll hear a lot more from me and others about this in the very near future.

But I’d just like to say thanks to everyone for their input into the COVID-19 response. I think it's being tremendous procurement, people and Government, New Zealand citizens.

You know, the team of five million have been brilliant and how we've responded and yeah. Hats off to everyone that's been involved.

Thank you and I hope everyone has a great day!

Tom O’Sullivan – Working with our suppliers

Tom talks to Lisa Julian about how strategic supplier relationship management helped government deliver essential services during lockdown and how to support suppliers in tough times. Tom O'Sullivan is NZGPP's Manager Supplier Relationships and Contracts.


Duration: 5:46

Lisa Julian: Kia ora whanau. I'm Lisa and I'm here with Tom to talk about supplier relationship management. So we've been quite busy over the lockdown talking with our key suppliers and have certainly seen a lot of benefits of supplier relationship management during this crisis. Tom, maybe you can talk to us about some of those benefits that we've seen?

Tom O'Sullivan: Yeah sure. Look I think COVID was a great example of just how reliant government is on its critical supply chain. I recall a conversation, I think was the Sunday before lockdown, there was some raw materials which were stuck in Sydney airport which were needed to manufacture the N95 masks in Whanganui.

And being able to use our relationships in the airline industry, you know, being able to track down exactly where those goods were and actually get them prioritised on the next plane out of Sydney within the hour, I think was a great example of actually being able to use those established relationships which have been built over a number of years.

I think Lisa you yourself would’ve seen in your engagement over at NCMC, just in terms of some of those relationships which you've built over time with the all of government office suppliers and the ability to, you know, quite quickly be able to deliver on hand sanitiser orders for essential services or being able to actually stand up a distribution model over a number of days. Just the benefit of actually having those long-standing relationships which we can really call on in times of crisis.

Lisa Julian: Yeah, absolutely.

During that time I had to move really quickly through an emergency procurement, as well as some emergency supply situations, and to have already have developed these relationships with the key suppliers and worked on strategic projects before just meant that I could move that much quickly and also have the outcome be really positive.

So I've certainly saw the benefits of the supplier relationship management framework that we use from those suppliers. Another thing is how we support suppliers during a really difficult time like COVID-19.

So have you any examples of how we've been able to support suppliers who have been significantly impacted over the crisis?

Tom O'Sullivan: Yeah look, there's a number of suppliers which is certainly doing it really really tough at the moment. I think across the all of government space and probably none more so than across the travel industry.

And we've taken the opportunity to, you know, to see what we can do to best support suppliers at this time. And I think a lot of that comes down to dialogue and actually understanding what suppliers particular pain points are.

We've looked at actually freeing up some of their resource that would normally be required to sort of fulfill certain contractual obligations around reporting and how we can stop that for a period. But also it's been a great opportunity to review commercial models, particularly commercial models which have been established and based on historical demand.

So within the travel space we've been working with supplier community and our agencies to review some of those pricing models with the view of, I suppose you know, making sure that we not only have a really clear understanding of fixed costs, variable cost - but also any changes in revenue to make sure we've actually got a sustainable pricing and a sustainable commercial model going forward.

I think that's really, really important if we want to make sure that there is still a successful and competitive supply base.

Lisa Julian: And I know that those suppliers really appreciated that close work with them over this time. I mean, supplier relationship management is obviously for suppliers and buyers so to have the benefit realized on both sides I think really strengthens that relationship.

So we've been able to reflect I think over the lockdown and through the COVID-19 pandemic and we've thought about supplier relationship management and what the future might be for SRM. Have you identified any opportunities moving forward?

Tom O'Sullivan: Yeah, I think there's I mean a number of opportunities but I think probably the biggest one and the one I'm certainly most excited about is within the significant services space.

I think something like COVID really shows us the importance of being joined up and coordinated across the system, particularly when we're looking we're actually looking at those areas of critical supply.

And so we'll be looking at establishing a couple of pilots within that space, not only focused obviously in terms of risk management and how potentially we can look at prioritisation across the system in the event of crisis, but also looking at what value we can release from those relationships.

And again I think the benefit of actually approaching this as whole-of-government not only makes us a much more attractive customer, but it also gives us the best opportunity of getting some real value across those relationships. So look, more will be coming out over the coming weeks and months within that space and I look forward to engaging with suppliers and agencies as we progress this program forward.

Lisa Julian: Well we'll watch this space Tom.

It's been great to chat. Thanks, ka kite.

Karen English – Supporting New Zealand businesses in recovery

Karen talks with Andrew Thrift about how we can support New Zealand businesses and make it easier for them to do business with government. Karen English is NZGPP’s Director International Procurement and Trade.


Duration: 5:46

Andrew Thrift: Kia ora, my name is Andrew thrift, I'm an account manager in New Zealand Government Procurement and Property.

With me today is Karen English, who's our Director of International procurement and trade and we're talking about local value.

So Karen I'm being asked a lot by agencies, how can they use procurements to increase local value? Bring goods, monies and services into their areas now in this post COVID world that we're in? Have you any suggestions or advice on that?

Karen English: Thank you, Andrew. It's really great to hear that agencies are talking about how they can use their procurement to support New Zealand business and employ New Zealanders.

In terms of how agencies can do that, I think there's two key ways. The first is just to make it easy for business to respond to tenders - think about simplifying the processes.

Make sure they're the right size for the size and complexity of the opportunity. In other words, don't have an enormous complex tender document for a small routine procurement.

Also think about using standardized documents. The RFX templates, for example, are extremely popular with business. It makes it so much easier for them to see exactly what the opportunity is and to make the decision whether they want to respond or not.

Think about unbundling your procurement. In other words, if you've got a large opportunity and maybe need national coverage, think about whether there is scope for tendering parts of it to regions so that a wider range of businesses can participate, rather than looking solely to get national coverage.

And another technique you might think about is to use your panels effectively. Make sure that once they're set up that everyone on it gets some work otherwise businesses gone through a lot of trouble and effort and gets nothing for it.

A really good way to understand what the businesses in your area find especially difficult with your tenders is to simply ask them. And then, of course, once you know what that is, to address any of those barriers, if at all possible.

So that's one way - make it easy. The other way to support New Zealand business is to ask respondents to your tenders to tell you what benefits they can offer to New Zealand or to a particular area.

This could be by way of open ended questions or more targeted such as asking what training or skills development they might offer, possibly providing a pathway for people who have lost their jobs or who is going to be used in as subcontractors to deliver the project.

Now make sure that if you ask for this information that you give it a waiting and evaluated. This means that all the bidders for the business are asked the same question and are treated equally.

Now a good place to start with this thinking is to develop a strategy for this.

Look at your procurement activities and determine where the opportunities are having regard to the market capabilities and capacity in your area. So those are just a couple of ways to go about involving New Zealand business better.

Andrew Thrift: Thanks for that Karen. Is there anything, and I’m asked this quite a bit, that agencies shouldn't do or can't do in our current environment?

Karen English: That's a very good question.

What agencies can't do is restrict bidding to New Zealand suppliers or require that the supply is only through New Zealand products.

The reason behind this is that it's good practice, internationally recognized and often included in trade agreements. So it's good practice to be as inclusive as possible and to award contracts on merit, not where the supplier comes from or is based.

Andrew Thrift: Thanks Karen. So, a quick summary then.

Basically make it easy for smaller companies.

Right size it. Standardize the documents - we've got lots of lovely templates on our website. Unbundle the procurement. If you've got panels, try to make sure that everybody gets a fair go and don't leave anybody behind.

And another really good one is actually talk to suppliers and ask suppliers, what are the barriers to doing business with us?

How can we make it easier? And then of course there's the asking for benefits to your local area or to New Zealand.

And evaluated - evaluate everybody the same. And probably one of the most important parts is to actually have a plan, have a strategy, so that you can understand how you can best address these things. Is there anything else that we might have missed?

Karen English: Yes, good question. I think one of the other things to always remember is that if you've asked suppliers and you've chosen a winning supplier, based on the questions that you've asked, make sure that the winning supplier delivers on the promises in its tender response.

And by that I mean that what you've evaluated the tender on goes into the contract and that contract managers actually follow up on the delivery by making regular checks on KPI’s during regular reviews and possibly even building in breakpoints or penalties for non-performance, something you'd want to get your legal advisors involved in.

Andrew Thrift: And I suppose another one would be prompt payments of your bills and invoices from suppliers.

Karen English: Absolutely.

You can't underestimate or overestimate the importance of paying on time. Cash flow is vital to business, especially small business, and that's why government has placed an expectation on agencies that their bills will be paid within 10 days. Very important.

Andrew Thrift: Yes, we all complain if we got paid late, wouldn’t we?


Thank you for that Karen. I hope that's been useful to everyone watching this, if you've got any questions or comments, please do come back to us www.procurement.govt.nz. You know where we are. Thank you for listening.