Government procurement and its management can only be systematic when it pursues either one goal or a coherent, integrated package of consistent goals.
It follows that one of the most effective tools that a purchasing professional brings to the table when assisting in procurement is the ability to clearly identify the goals of the project.
At least in the case of major procurement efforts, each procurement project should focus on a stated goal, which should describe exactly what the project is to accomplish.
The project description should employ action words such as "design", "build", "implement" and the like.
The goal should be limited to those essential elements of the project that communicate the purpose of the project and the outcome expected.
As I have noted in the past, some projects are far more ambitious than others, and involve criteria of success far beyond the simple matter of trying to spend money more wisely.
A realistic project may push the skills and knowledge of the people working on it, but should not break them.
However, a project is not realistic if it cannot be carried out using available technology and methods, or if the cost of carrying it out or timeline for the execution exceeds the capacity of available resources.
The particular responsibility of the procurement department in a goal-oriented approach to construction procurement is to confirm that the methods that are being followed in relation to the procurement are consistent with commercial reality.
They must offer a workable method of carrying the project into effect while generating the best value for money.
It is also to see that municipal concessions to suppliers, in relation to procurement matters, are matched by corresponding reductions in prices.
As we are all well aware with the laws of public procurement, much of municipal procurement is focused on process rather than the pursuit of goals.
While exclusive preoccupation with goals is not sufficient as a managerial purpose, the rules and regulations governing public procurement are not necessarily inimical to proper management.
On the contrary, effective management requires all persons, who are involved in the purchasing process, to understand the reason for the steps that must be taken in the circumstances of each case, and why they are important to the overall management of the municipality as an organization.
The proper process is the approved method, which may be employed for affecting that goal.
A purchasing professional should have a solid base in the process prescribed by the municipality for carrying out different types of procurement. The importance of the purchasing department is when it becomes involved as steps commence to carry the project into execution.
Timelines, resources commitment to the project, dependencies and critical path must be understood by those responsible for procurement, so that the most efficient method of attaining the overall goal can be determined.
Particularly in the case of complex construction projects, if these steps are not taken, then the risk rises that the project may degenerate.
Constraints on execution (time, money, resources, available skills, infrastructure, technology, organizational strength, etc.,) must be proper and appropriate mitigation tactics both developed and employed. Constraints may be internal to the organization or driven by external factors.
Limited funds, skills and time are all examples of internal constraints. Technology limitations can be external.
Market conditions, customer expectations, and competitive forces are all examples of external constraints.
Understanding constraints is critical at the outset of a project, in order to make correct planning assumptions.
It is at this point, that the role of the purchasing department begins to come into its own.
In view of its organization-wide mandate, the purchasing department can play an early warning role in competing projects that present a material risk of conflict.
Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at email@example.com. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.