Procurement Officers: Problem Solvers, Not Paper-pushers Nor Nay-sayers

The new world of government purchasing involves a much different set of skills than it had in the past, according to a recent article in Governing

While procurement once required cumbersome paper-pushing and a penchant for navigating bureaucracy, technological advances and growing use of data now enable purchasers to think much more critically and creatively to solve problems and get governments their best deals.

Data about spending allows for a far more advanced analysis of what agencies need and lets goods and services be purchased at ever-more-steeply discounted prices. Internet access and e-procurement systems even allow a small town in Utah to buy common goods off the same cooperative contracts as Los Angeles or New York City. By joining forces, the small Utah town can be part of a much, much larger purchase, which lowers per-unit costs.

At the same time, procurement officials are grappling with ways to reduce risk in the more complex purchases or contracts created by agencies for the unique needs they have. Increasingly, procurement officials at the top of their game are working on building more flexible systems, cushioned by aggressive risk assessment. The idea is to replace the rigid rules of oversight and compliance with a system that emphasizes strategic partnerships.

Procurement officers all over the country continue to attempt to dispel myths that their main purpose is compliance-based.

Several years ago in Georgia, the state’s former procurement manager made a major effort to convince agencies that “we’re not here just to say no.” The campaign continues. Lisa Eason, the current procurement manager, held a conference at the end of April for procurement workers across the state. One of the stated goals was “to show the value of procurement to your leadership and your stakeholders.”

The shift in perception is not just to satisfy the egos of procurement professionals. “If we let [the agencies] know the value we add, they will take more time and plan out what we should be doing,” says Eason.

The key is to avoid the I-need-this-and-I-need-this-right-now problem. “Get us involved early,” she says, “to get you what you need at the best value.”

Read the full article here.

Are you a Maryland county procurement officer interested in getting together with other Maryland county procurement officers? Please let MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick know.