What procurement trends will shape the public sector in 2021?

Rob Woodstock, chief commercial officer at HMRC, spoke with Proxima to outline three trends he foresees shaping the procurement landscape in 2021
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Public sector procurement has come under unique pressures a result of COVID-19. From the initial rush to source PPE and COVID testing kits for the NHS, to ensuring that key supply chains for food and essential services were able to reach the UK, public sector procurement has been at the frontline of the fight against the pandemic since its beginning.

But through these challenges, it has played a pivotal role in getting the public sector back on the front foot.

Whilst we cannot predict what 2021 holds, we spoke to Rob Woodstock, Chief Commercial Officer at HMRC to understand his focus for the year ahead, and what he feels will shape procurement in 2021.

On his mind were three Ps…


Economic value has long been a predominant focus for colleagues across the procurement profession as a whole and while it remains vitally important, 2020 has reminded everyone of the equal importance and value of our work in risk management, resilience, and agility. 

Social value is another objective that will increasingly come to the fore in 2021. We now face the question of how we ‘Build Back Better’ from the Covid-19 pandemic, with issues from sustainability to supporting small business, bringing social value into greater consideration.


2020 was a learning curve for everyone. A lot of those learnings offer up new possibilities for the coming year. In government, we saw first-hand that the UK has a lot of extremely innovative suppliers, which many will look to maximise in 2021.

Social value is another objective that will increasingly come to the fore in 2021.

Another possibility comes from remote working becoming a permanent trend, offering exciting changes to the way government uses its real estate. This will be an enticing prospect for every organisation in 2021.


There are also long-term challenges that we must continue to tackle. How can we bring a more diverse range of people into procurement?  And how can we make procurement a go-to career for young people? The current demographics show evidence of a predominantly older white male workforce and a stark lack of diversity at senior levels.

Moreover, procurement professionals have had to deal with massive demands over the past year. We have met the pressing needs of internal stakeholders while taking care of suppliers during an incredibly challenging period. My number one message to every procurement leader is to look after your people – take care of their wellbeing and do not underestimate the impact that this pandemic has had on everyone.


2021 will see the procurement function increase in importance and expand into organisational considerations in: risk management; resilience; and agility. We can expect social value to rise in importance, whether that’s ‘Building Back Better’ post-Covid or supporting smaller businesses, who have been set-back during the pandemic.

As mass remote working continues into 2021, real estate options will be scrutinised, but the support of our people and challenging industry demographics will continue to be of great focus.

The pandemic has changed the understanding of what procurement can offer an organization. While economic value will continue to be central to public sector procurement in 2021, other metrics will be fundamentally redefined and innovation, employee wellbeing and ESG will continue to rise on the agenda in 2021.

Read the full Procurement in 2021 report here.



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