Pia Larsen is one of the judges for the 2014 CIPS Awards and has been recently appointed permanent Director of Procurement at University College London Hospitals after 12 months as an interim, and only nine years in procurement.  I was lucky enough meet with Pia on her first day in the new role to talk about the Awards and her career so far.

Many people ‘fall into’ procurement.  What was your story?

“Whilst working in education back in 2005, I had an element of procurement in my role as a project manager, and when an opportunity came up to apply for the role of procurement executive, I was ready for a change and I took it.  I learned ‘hands on’, combining my experience with my ongoing business management degree, and then undertook my CIPS studies exams during my own time over the course of the following years.”  

Pia joined the Royal Free Hospital on secondment to support them whilst they developed a shared service with three other Trusts.  With the Royal Free not being in a position to take on permanent staff, Pia became an interim at the Trust.  “There are many benefits to interim management; there is quick transition into roles, and organisations are supported during uncertain periods.  Interims allow a different type of working; they can be genuinely impartial, with no historical or political agenda, which can allow change to be driven substantially quicker”

This year is the first year we have had CIPS Awards judges from the NHS and the first time a hospital has made the shortlist.  Does this show that the industry now takes NHS procurement seriously?

“NHS procurement has suffered from its reputation, both internally and externally.  Procurement within Trusts has traditionally been seen as the ‘police’, but things are genuinely improving.  

My definition of ‘Good’ is all parties (Stakeholder, Supplier and Procurement) all mutually respecting each other.  When this occurs, tough conversations can be had that lead to a better outcome for all.

This respect is now becoming evident over recent years, and having three finalists from across the NHS and two NHS judges is testament to that change.”

How were you nominated as judge?  How did you feel?

“I was emailed by the organiser – and it was a very nice surprise.  My initial reaction was to ask another Procurement Director if he’d also been asked too, but he told me that it was clearly down to the recognition of my achievements.  This was really nice to hear.”

What made you want to get involved? There are a lot of entries to read and a lot of responsibility to take on!

“Last year I sat in the audience and thought two things – firstly there were few women on the panel, and secondly there was no NHS representation.  I knew it would be very time consuming, however I was really committed as I had never seen an NHS judge before and saw this as a great opportunitiy to promote the sector.  I am also very passionate about driving more female representation to senior procurement roles, and this was an excellent platform to inspire.

There is also a great development opportunity – by reading the varied types of submissions from their diverse backgrounds, these are great case studies from which we can learn from.”

What do you look for in a winner?

“I want to recognise excellence, but in specific context.  Comparing procurement development at a world class automotive manufacturer compared to a small charity is not appropriate, however good practise can still be learned from the small organisation if innovation is well applied.”

With the shear number of applicants, how do you remain objective and not get overwhelmed?

“I approached the exercise in a similar manner to a procurement evaluation of an Open ITT – I read all of the applications first, and then went back and scored them individually.” 

What is your favourite category?

“People development.  I feel very strongly that investing in the youth is the future of NHS procurement.  UCLH have interns and even international work experience placements all working within the procurement team.”

If you were to enter personally, which category would you chose and why?

Personally I am very passionate about the NHS – I always wanted to be a doctor when I was growing up, and care a lot about our healthcare system.  There are significant capability issues in the NHS system, and NHS procurement is under a lot of criticism and needs investment.  My mission has been to improve the reputation of NHS procurement, and I would like to think that I would be a strong candidate for the Best Contribution to the Reputation of Procurement Award!

Who would you suggest we watch at the awards?

“I wouldn’t like to give anything away – I have a lot of respect for the awards so I’m definitely not letting the cat out of the bag!”

Over the last ten years, you have become a parent, director of procurement of a globally respected hospital and have educated yourself to a high level in your own time. Where do you find the time to achieve what you have achieved?!

“It’s about hard graft, self-belief and commitment.   By taking opportunities and pushing your boundaries, you find ways to make it work.”

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Richard Collins, Managing Director at IEG. Originally a design engineer, Richard has clocked up 10 years’ experience as an executive level recruiter within public sector procurement, finance and commercial management. Career highlights include generating circa £1.2m gross profit from two start-up businesses in five-years, but he also thrives on delivering and building teams. Post 5pm accomplishments include extreme sports and being Daddy to two beautiful daughters.
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