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Sandra Lewis
March 7, 2018

The Clock, the Cat and Agile Procurement!

The Clock, the Cat and Agile Procurement!

Little did I know when I woke up Monday morning that I would end up sitting in a discussion about cats and clocks, as part of an unconference on agile procurement!

This was my first ever unconference and I have to admit that I did a bit of googling to find out what I was letting myself in for, so it was with a mixture of excitement and apprehension that I headed over to The National Archives at Kew.

I couldn’t have been more wrong!!

The event was hosted by Difrent and after a quick opening from their MD, Rachel Murphy, Janet Hughes explained how the unconference would work.

Essentially, there is no agenda for the event. People are asked to pitch things that they would like to discuss and a show of hands shows the level of interest in each subject. The sessions are then allocated a space and you are all then free to wander around the spaces, joining in whenever and wherever you want.

I decided to be brave and pitched my topic, Life beyond Go-Live. Having worked on a couple of procurements, my observation is that the requirements and evaluation process often focusses heavily on financials and function. This can result in very little consideration to the full lifecycle of the product and how the supplier can ensure that value continues to be realised. In addition to the product support model, it is important to have an exit plan included in the contract, as there will, undoubtedly, be a time when you need to transition to a new supplier. Engaging Service Management teams early in any procurement can address some of these issues. Luckily a few people put their hand up to say that they would like to discuss this, so I was allocated area number 2.


Once all the pitches were done, we all headed off to grab a coffee, before heading to our respective areas. I headed over to area 2, and a few people joined me to talk about life after go-live. Fast forward 40 minutes and I can honestly say that I loved every minute! The format of the unconference really helps people kick off discussions, whilst allowing everyone to input into those discussions too. A great way to get a different viewpoint on a topic.

Some of the team acted as timekeepers, which ensured that the sessions did not run over their allotted time. The second round of discussions kicked off, so I headed over to join a discussion on content quality within the Digital Marketplace.

The topic was pitched by David Kershaw and we had a very useful session, challenging the current approach and coming up with some suggestions to take away. If you’d like to know more about this session, here’s the link to David’s blog: David Kershaw AgileP Blog

You are probably wondering where are the clocks and cats are, so let me explain.

The session was pitched by Mark Foden and explained the difference between complex issues and complicated issues. I loved the analogy of clocks and cats. The clocks being something that you can pretty much take apart and look at to work out what it is going to do. When it comes to cats, if you took the back off (please don’t do this at home!), you would not be able to determine how it works or what it is going to do. Understanding the difference helps you to know how to tackle an issue.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event and can honestly say that it was the most useful, interesting event I have attended. I loved the open format, mixed with a relaxed atmosphere where everyone gets a chance to have their say. I personally found it much easier to network with people in this informal setting, which was another massive plus!


Did I enjoy the event? Absolutely! I met some great people, had the opportunity to talk to a wide range of people and hear some great ways in which procurement could become more agile.

Please note: No cats were harmed during the event.

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