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Sarah Hunter

Procurement Manager, ICT Sourcing @ Business Services Organisation

Sarah Hunter - BSO - Pals

Sarah is a Procurement Manager, working in ICT Sourcing, her job involves putting in place and managing contracts for HSC organisations’ ICT requirements, ensuring compliance with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

Can you tell us about your job and what you do from day to day?

As a Procurement Manager in the Procurement and Logistics Service’s (PaLS) ICT Souring team, my job involves putting in place and managing contracts for HSC organisations’ ICT requirements, ensuring compliance with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

The contracts for which I am responsible cover a variety of customer organisations’ needs, such as a hardware contract for laptops, PCs and accessories and a software contract to enable citizens to access mental health support remotely. To deliver these contracts, I am responsible for the entire procurement process. This begins by liaising with customer organisations to understand their needs or the problem they are trying to solve and drafting procurement documents in conjunction with them. When the contract is advertised, I ensure that customers respond promptly to any questions from potential suppliers.

Once the advertisement closes, I am responsible for checking that all bids have been completed according to the instructions and for facilitating the customers’ evaluation of the responses to make a decision on the successful bidder in compliance with the Regulations.

At this point, I must communicate the outcome to all suppliers that bid for the contract and ensuring everything is prepared ahead of the contract start date. After the contract starts, I monitor the spend to ensure the contract stays within budget, assist customers with any queries they have in relation to using the contract and keep in regular contact with the supplier to ensure the contract continues to operate as it should.

Day to day this can involve preparing for and leading meetings with customers, drafting documentation or responding to customer or supplier questions on the phone or via email. I also manage a team of three staff, who may be responsible for their own tenders or may be assisting me on my own projects. My role is to assist them with any queries they may have, help them to meet their deadlines and ensure that they are getting opportunities and experiences that will allow them to progress within PaLS.

How long have you been in your current role?

I have been in my current role as a Procurement Manager in the ICT team since September 2020. I joined PaLS in 2017; before my current post I held other roles in various PaLS teams as a Graduate Intern, Procurement Officer and Management Trainee.

What experience/education is required to perform this role?

There are various routes to become a Procurement Manager in PaLS both via graduate programmes as I did or via an experiential route progressing through the various levels within PaLS. I have qualifications in both law and business, which are extremely helpful when drafting contracts and documentation, working within the Public Contracts Regulations and understanding customers’ business requirements. Any experience or qualifications that provide good attention to detail, ability to analyse information and understand customer objectives or difficulties and find solutions to these would be helpful to anyone interested in a career in procurement.

What is the biggest challenge in your role?

The biggest challenge in my role is balancing the objectives of ensuring compliance with the Public Contracts Regulations and finding a suitable solution to meet customers’ needs, which don’t always line up very clearly so it is up to me and my team to have a complete grasp of the regulations and to be creative so that we are able to come up with ways to achieve a fit for purpose solution while maintaining compliance.

What advice would you give to others looking for a job in your field?

For anyone looking for a job in public procurement, I would recommend watching out on the HSC Jobs website for opportunities in PaLS – there are many teams within PaLS so there will be something to suit everyone. In the meantime, I would recommend reading up on market trends and gaining experience in a commercial or business environment that provides skills in team work, using your initiative and attention to detail.

What do you like best about your role and working in HSC?

I like that my role is so varied; day to day, week to week my work can change so much and I get the opportunity to gain experience in wide range of different procurements. I am also very lucky to work in a supportive team that gives me the opportunity to develop. However, what I like best is that, ultimately, the objective of my work is to assist front line colleagues and the experiences of HSCNI service users.