Member Blog: The best of both worlds?

  • Bruce Melizan, Executive Director, Interserve
  • 17 Apr 2015
Medium bruce melizan april2015

Working with both the public and private sector presents us with challenges and opportunities…

Blog by Bruce Melizan, Executive Director, Interserve

The first thing any business or organisation needs to understand when it provides services to both the private and public sectors is that they are each subject to very different pressures and operate in significantly different environments. They have different challenges and different performance measures, and this often shapes how they react and respond to events.

As a business that serves customers in both sectors – and in the multitude of sectors this entails, understanding their pressures, constraints, motivations and objectives is an essential starting point when working out how we can provide the best support for them in the UK and abroad.

This context is also important in how we relate and contract with the two sectors. Generally, the public sector, by its very nature, is longer-term in outlook reflecting its role as a provider of core services to the public. The private sector has to be much more fleet-of-foot, sometimes needing to adapt and change rapidly in response to market events, but both approaches require us to be flexible in our response.

The upshot is that we are often providing similar services in very different contexts. Our flexible attitude and wide ranging expertise makes us, I believe, better at responding to our customer’s needs and it allows us to transfer expertise and lessons learned across all our areas of work. For example, our work in the public sector draws heavily on the strength of local SMEs (Interserve was ranked top in 2013 for percentage spend with SMEs) and the benefits of this approach also applies to the private sector. Equally the pace of the private sector makes us better equipped to deal with the changing demands on the public sector where we are seeing a greater emphasis on short-term cost reduction than this sector has previously experienced.

Despite the differences highlighted above, there are some consistent themes all customers are keen to see from us. For example, a commitment to sustainability; to building skills and opportunities for our people; positively supporting the communities we work within; and an ethical approach to how we operate when we are working for or on behalf of them. For all our customers, governance, performance and reputation are critical and they need a business that can support and protect them in this area.

It is definitely challenging working for customers with different drivers and needs, but the experience we draw from it allows for the type of innovation and cross fertilisation that would otherwise be difficult. It also allows us to develop strong partnerships that can then apply themselves in many different areas, for example using the very best of the private, public and third sectors to affect skills and employability. We encourage our people to work in a variety of environments and situations and this broader awareness keeps our teams and ideas fresh, ultimately for the benefit of all our customers.

I see the needs of both sectors converging more and more in future, as we look towards innovation and new ways of working to deliver better, more efficient services. As the differences between private and public sectors narrow we are observing that the change management experience we have garnered is becoming increasingly invaluable, as is our broader perspective on the value proposition.

Bruce Melizan is Executive Director of Interserve with responsibility for the Support Services division. He joined Interserve in 2003 and was appointed to the Board in January 2008. Bruce has been in the outsourcing industry for over 20 years.

Previous organisations include Amey, Mowlem, Schlumberger and TYE Manufacturing both in the UK and globally. Bruce holds an MBA from Cranfield School of Management and a BSc in Electrical Engineering from Queen’s University, Canada.

He is a member of the Business Services Association Council, the CBI’s Public Sector Strategy Board and the Chair of the charity, Safer London.

  Related topics: Procurement, Public service reform, Economy and growth