Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How the Contracting/Purchasing Function Should Add Value

A major purpose of  the public contracting and purchasing function should be to add value by providing strategic assistance to customers in a manner that helps them meet their business objectives through a fair and legal competitive process.  

Agency Perceptions:  This can be a challenge in some public agencies where the contracting/purchasing function is not held in high regard by project managers and end users, who often view procurement professionals as a roadblock to accomplishing work.   

Business Objectives and Procurement Strategy:  The key to turning these perceptions around is to actively build a partnership with project managers, and add value to the procurement process by providing advice to project managers that promotes the project's objectives, all within the framework of complying with procurement and contracting regulations.  Contracting/purchasing staff should take the initiative to reach out to the end users and project managers, and encourage them to seek out the contracting/purchasing staff early on as part of planning a procurement strategy.

Tip:  One of the strategies I used when I was a public contracting manager was to set aside an hour each week for an "open contracting forum" to which I invited project managers to drop by with their questions about procurement and contracting issues on projects.  I told them if the issue would take more than 15 minutes to discuss they should schedule a separate appointment.  It was a very valuable time of brainstorming and working together in developing the best solutions.  It was also beneficial for project managers to listen to the issues that others were dealing with, and they would often chime in with their experiences in response to questions raised.

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