'Little did I realise I would be working on some of the largest challenges of our lifetime from day one' – life as a commercial lead

A huge diversity of people and roles make up the modern civil service. Kobirul Islam helps to ensure outcomes are delivered efficiently at the Home Office. He also co-chairs the Commercial Function’s Positive Support Group

By Civil Service World

02 Aug 2022

Kobirul Islam, commercial lead, Home Office, London

When and why did you join the civil service?

I joined the Home Office as commercial lead via Government Commercial Organisation in August 2020 looking for a new challenge and opportunity to make a difference. Little did I realise that on arrival, from day one, I would be working on some of the largest challenges of our lifetime, delivering complex commercial outcomes at pace during not only EU exit but also the Covid pandemic. Challenges have not stopped since, so I have got what I wished for – exposure to a wide variety of important projects across government.

What did you do before?

I worked as a senior commercial business partner at the Security Industry Authority, a non-departmental public body. During my time at SIA, I worked within the corporate services function (the organisation’s nerve centre that included HR, finance, IT and information secretariat teams) to support the crucial procurement and contract management delivery of security licensing activities. Commercial savings led to a reduction of the overall license fee by 5%. This was money back in the pocket of key frontline staff.

Tell us what you do and how it helps citizens

I work with key business functions managing a large portfolio of spend and contracts. This includes managing strategic supplier and critical contracts to ensure business case outcomes are achieved. I develop innovative commercial strategies, ensuring procurement activity delivers tangible outcomes, value for money and more efficient and lean services, whilst considering social value and sustainability. All this activity has a direct impact on citizens at the forefront of our delivery work. A critical contract in my portfolio has enabled 26 buildings to operate across the UK to keep vital services open to both the public and key workers during the pandemic. Collaborative working has delivered significant value for money and value-added outcomes through the delivery of training and employment to unemployed people. This work has been recognised through the Government Commercial Function Contract Management Award.

“A critical contract in my portfolio has enabled 26 buildings to operate across the UK to keep vital services open to both the public and key workers during the pandemic”

How did your role change during the pandemic?

My role evolved from initial crisis management i.e. influencing suppliers and stakeholders to build adequate resilience to manage emerging issues and risks to ensure minimal disruptions to critical services. The pandemic has also had some positives, including closer relationships with both stakeholders and suppliers to deliver over and above the targets to continually improve services. Now I am focusing on fostering that collaborative culture to deliver better services to stakeholders and ultimately the public across my portfolio.

What are some of the most important attributes and skills for civil servants working in the commercial function?

Resilience for me is key. There is always lots going on and another crisis or disruption could be around the corner. You need to learn to thrive in that complex environment spinning lots of plates, build both personal resilience as well as in the immediate team to deliver. I decompress from the day job by focusing on my wellbeing, which I do through running and cycling which I enjoy and derive satisfaction and a parallel sense of achievement.

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