Procurement which is out of the ordinary
Published: 15 Jun 2015 By GCHQ, MI5 & MI6
MI5, MI6, and GCHQ work collaboratively to protect the UK from threats to national security. These threats are constantly evolving, and preventing attacks has become one of the government’s top priorities. Operating within an established legal framework, they gather, interpret and respond to intelligence to help keep the nation safe.
So how do the agencies acquire the tools to carry out this important work? It’s a tough challenge, especially in a world where technology is rapidly changing. In response to this a highly innovative and flexible procurement team is at work, behind the scenes of operations and investigations, purchasing a range of technologies and materials. Whether it’s day-to-day office equipment, advanced communication systems, or parts for a bespoke creation, their work is vital.
The procurement teams within the three agencies face unique challenges. Whilst they operate in a familiar structure, the business priorities they have to meet and the items they buy are often independently very different.
MI5 and MI6
MI5 and MI6 procurement teams work together playing a key role in ensuring the infrastructure, assets and operations of the organisations have the right equipment, services and support – everything they need, when they need it, where they want it; whilst getting value from the supply chain.
“During operations, priorities are constantly shifting from one minute to the next. It’s up to us to help make the art of the impossible, possible”
- Matthew, Procurement Professional, MI5
The team works closely with their customers – operational and corporate teams, IT specialists and those on the front line - and have to constantly think on their feet to formulate creative ideas in response to the sensitive operational requirements of the job in hand. It’s fascinating work. Whilst always following commercial best practice, procurement professionals will buy everything from office equipment to emerging technologies through to ongoing research and development, and will find themselves building effective supplier relationships that aim to safeguard supply chain risk, and drive good performance and value in complex environments.
“Our teams are often called on to work under time pressure and deliver to ever changing demands, but are also able to achieve a work/life balance. It’s a really supportive environment and we recognise that every individual is important so ensure everyone is ideally placed to give their best”
- Sarah, Procurement Professional, MI6
GCHQ has a unique mission; no one else does what they do and the procurement team has a direct impact on GCHQ operations and as with MI5 and MI6 they sit at the heart of the agency’s mission to protect the UK. Procurement specialists work extremely closely with our key stakeholders and are often embedded into their teams.
“Some of the technological goods and services we purchase are really interesting and pioneering. It’s fascinating to see what’s out there and how we can use it in unique ways to protect the UK. It’s really rewarding to feel like I’m actually making a difference. Within the team we share our knowledge with each other, to ensure we keep up to date”
- Simon, Procurement Professional, GCHQ
The diversity of the work at GCHQ means that procurement specialists will be negotiating with a contractor one day and advising an internal customer on creating a commercial requirement the next. Keeping their commercial knowledge up to date is vital for success and the variety and complexity of procurement within GCHQ requires a combination of commercial understanding, strong leadership, management skills and an agile approach. They are valued within the organisation for their commercial expertise and the culture is one of continuous professional development.
Together MI5, MI6 and GCHQ get to buy some of the most unusual and out of the ordinary things imaginable, while helping to keep the UK a safer place for us all.
For more information about procurement vacancies within the three agencies, please visit their websites: