Six months ago I had no idea I had hidden commercial skills and I didn't know my CIPS from my CAPPOL.
Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Julia and I am 6 months into my role as a D Band in Defence Equipment & Support at the Ministry of Defence (MoD). I still have to pinch myself when I think about where I work!
The first time I met my line manager she gave me a tour around Abbey Wood (should have worn flats!) and then we finally settled ourselves down for an overview of my role.
My first questions were “So what am I here to do? What does the Commercial Function do for the MoD, and what does 'commercial' mean as a civil servant"?
One of the things I quickly learned was that the Commercial Function is more than just the people you deal with. It's an entire process of getting things done: It’s the submariner who sees there is an issue on their boat. It’s the communication procedures in place that allows them to alert the right department. It’s the Project Officer who breaks down the technical issues into a robust set of requirements. It's the QA Officer who checks the compliance, and then there's the Commercial Officer ready and waiting to tell the story to industry in the form of a contract.
Commercial is about putting together an effective contract which is transparent to everybody.
In my team we want to make sure you are EU compliant, the appropriate DEFCONS (Defence Conditions) have been selected, and all the F’s of the right DEFFORMS have been crossed. Then and only then can the MoD have faith in its contracts and industry can see what our expectations are. All this means the Submariner on the boat gets what they need to keep the boat safe.
Being commercial is hugely important for everybody in the Civil Service, and it's never been easier to develop these skills. For example, as Commercial Officers we have so many ways to learn our craft at our fingertips:
- Civil Service Learning has a range of online courses
- the Commercial Awareness Practitioner Programme On-Line (CAPPOL) Training is a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know when you start out
- the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) has qualifications, which all Commercial Officers are encouraged to take
My greatest daily ally is the MoD Commercial Toolkit. You can search for anything and it'll return more than enough useful information to help you wade through any commercial conundrum you may have.
So here I am building my knowledge; studying, experiencing all manner of new and interesting situations, and all the while updating my personal Learning From Experience log on a daily basis. I can see how much I’m improving all the time.
Understanding, it matters; questioning, it matters; robust technical requirements, they matter; Commercial Matters! Must dash - I’m off to read a CIPS chapter on understanding the legal aspects relating to the performance of contracts….for me and for you.