Strategic sourcing toolkit


This toolkit is designed to help senior managers in higher education analyse and plan procurement in a way that supports their institution at a strategic level. It guides you through a ‘Strategic Sourcing Life Cycle Process’ and shows you how do develop an ‘Intelligent Customer Function’ (ICF) which provides leadership and support throughout the process.

What is strategic sourcing?

The process of making intelligent procurement decisions involves ‘strategic sourcing’, which we define as “a fact based and analytical process for optimising the supply base, to ensure the achievement of the HEIs strategic objectives.”

This involves the appraisal of a full spectrum of internal and external business models and strategic choices as to how HEIs can best realise economic, efficiency and effectiveness benefits. This is distinct from the process of ‘outsourcing’ which involves the contracting out of an internal business function or process.

Strategic Sourcing Life Cycle Process Framework

The Strategic Sourcing Life Cycle Process Framework has been designed for use in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and is based on materials and insights from sourcing experts and HE sector expertise. It contains tools designed to assist with important aspects of strategic decision-making at different stages of the sourcing life cycle.

The framework presents five steps, from early stage strategic analysis, through to engagement with internal/external suppliers, transition and relationship management. Whilst the process should ideally be followed in a linear sequence, it is possible to start with establishing proof of concept in a later step (e.g. assessing the capability of providers) before investing time in up front analysis.

Whilst there is a cost associated with following the linear approach which must be weighed against the value of the opportunity – past experience and lessons learned dictate that HEIs will benefit in the long run by carrying out robust up-front business analysis before undertaking later steps in the strategic sourcing process.

The five step framework

  1. HEI Sourcing Maturity Framework
  2. Strategic Sourcing by HEI Activity
  3. HEI Sourcing Decision Tree and HEI Portfolio Decision Matrix
  4. Successful Transition Planning
  5. Sourcing Team Audit

Intelligent Customer Function (ICF) Capability Audit

The Intelligent Customer Function (ICF) is an internal HEI capability, which provides leadership and support throughout the Strategic Sourcing Life Cycle Process. The ICF seeks to retain sufficient technical knowledge of important services being delivered by external parties, to competently specify requirements and ensure the delivery of benefits. The Intelligent Customer Function Capability Audit provides an internal assessment of the following key areas: Vision, Leadership & Talent Management, Tool-box, Decision-Support, Operational Delivery, and Governance & Communications.

About the project

The toolkit represents the outputs of a project undertaken by University of the West of England and funded by the Leadership Foundation and Hefce via the Innovation and Transformation Fund (ITF) 2012. It was produced in response to the findings of the UK Government’s Operational Efficiency Programme (2009 and the Diamond Report (2011) which called for the adoption of more strategic approaches to HEI sourcing practice, as a means to ‘reduce cost and improve quality’.

The final report is freely available to download for UK HEIs.


Dr Dharm Kapletia, Senior Research Fellow, University of the West of England

Dr Wendy Phillips, Associate Professor, Strategy and Operations Management, University of the West of England