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This week sees the final interviews and selection for the Chief Executive role at Crown Commercial Service (CCS), the UK central government collaborative buying operation.

We suspect the candidates will include some – maybe even all – who are primarily private sector in terms of their background.  So why would a high-flying corporate CPO, COO or similar make that move into government? We’ve written abut this before, but here is our (refreshed) view on five of the points they might consider:

  1. The public sector can offer genuinely challenging and fascinating work. There’s no doubt that the best procurement jobs in the public sector are at least as interesting as anything the private sector has to offer. My personal experience was that the public sector had all the normal procurement challenges of markets, suppliers and so on, but then also had this additional dimension of being in the public eye and having to satisfy the political angle as well as the commercial. (I did once appear on the front page of a major UK newspaper, after some leaked emails, so there is a downside to the public profile too!)
  2. Many people in the public sector do like to feel that they are doing something for the benefit of human kind, not just for commercial profit making reasons. We can debate the philosophy behind that, but I remember a procurement director from a hospital saying that his team’s procurement savings “had paid for 100 more heart operations this year”. That might well give many people a good feeling, compared to buying sugar for a soft drinks firm or even technology for a bank!  
  3. Allied with that, there is a bit of the “reflected glory” from working closely with Ministers and being part of that whole Westminster world. Good for the gossip at dinner parties or the pub as well, although you will have to sign the official secrets act! You might even end up with an OBE, CB or similar… and plenty of non-exec offers from supply-side firms when you leave.
  4. In terms of developing a rounded CV, even towards the end of your career, getting experience in different sectors is a positive step. So for some people, even if they consider they will return to the private sector later, a few years in such a significant public sector job to gain different experience may well be useful.
  5. The public sector in many cases will offer a better “work / life balance”. It may be something of a cliché, but it is still true. Generally, the public sector is more reasonable than private industry when it comes to working sensible hours, having time off for emergencies, flexible working patterns, and so on, even at the most senior levels.


We haven’t touched on pay and benefits, where traditionally, the private sector was usually better, and the £200K or so on offer for this role is not bad, but not quite up to the top CPO levels in global corporates, we suspect. But aspects such as a guaranteed, index linked pension, still available to some public servants in some countries, has huge value. Even taking that out of the picture, the reasons above make it clear why for some procurement professionals – not everyone, but a reasonable proportion – a move to the public sector can make a lot of sense. We suspect that it will be a pretty strong shortlist being cross-examined this week!




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