Barratt Developments has been building homes for more than 50 years and today is one of the nation’s largest house builders. Helping to meet demand in towns, cities and rural areas, the company provides high-quality, value-for-money homes, shared ownership and homes for rent. They’re also leaders in brownfield development and urban regeneration.
As Group Procurement Director at Barratt Developments, John Adams is responsible for procurement of all goods and services across a group comprising more than 6,000 direct employees and 27 individual operating divisions throughout Britain with annual spend of around £1 billion.

Data is a key cornerstone of how we improve our business going forward. We’ve done a lot of work improving our systems. We were fairly basic in our use of technology even five, six or seven years ago. We’ve done huge amounts across the whole of the business, not just to put data systems in, but to put integrated data systems that talk to each other.  

If you aren’t making your decisions based on data, then everything is just a guess. Now some things inevitably will be a guess, because you haven’t got a crystal ball and you don’t know what the future is going to hold. But if you can base that guess on some sort of factual information, then you have a better chance of getting it right.  

We brought two organisations together, Barratt and David Wilson, and were set a challenge to drive some synergies out of bringing two organisations together. So the first thing that we did was to try and take the information that was available in those systems and effectively ram it together – which wasn’t easy, funnily enough. PredictX were the vehicle that helped us to do that. Then we had a complete picture of who we were spending with, who we were buying from, what our total spend was. And it actually gave us some surprising results. We thought that there would be a fair amount of commonality because the two businesses do the same thing in roughly the same arenas. We thought that the supply chain would be fairly similar, and actually it wasn’t, it was quite diverse.  

Data has to be a core cornerstone of how you operate.

John Adams

When buying new technology, the first thing to recognise when you’re a procurement director is actually you’re probably not the best person to evaluate that piece of technology. So I think that it’s really important that you get some subject matter experts to help you with it. There’s a temptation to think that you have to do everything, and I think that that is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Get the subject matter experts, get them alongside your commercial experts and move forward in a single direction.  

When you’re going through implementation, you need a clear plan and it needs to be a non-option. One of the things that I’ve noticed in the past is that if you don’t get full adoption, it’s not surprising that you don’t get the full benefit. You’re left looking at your ROI analysis at the end saying, “Well I said it was going to do this, but it only did half of that”. Some of that could be down to the fact that you’re not using what you’re supposed to be using to the fullest effect. 

You’ve got to get people used to the fact that they should be driving their decision making through the use of data. The more data or the more quality data that they can get, the better the decision should be. It has to be a core cornerstone of how you operate, particularly in procurement, where there’s lots and lots of information around that can help you with making the decisions that you need to make.