Are you going where no procurement officer has gone before?

CONTRIBUTION BY Peep Tomingas – Estonian Purchasing and Supply Chain Management Association ProLog, CEO, DeltaBid, advisor

Have you ever been assigned to a project where the team has never before had to work with a procurement officer? If you have, you know that the challenges are great, but with great challenges come great rewards. The addition of a procurement officer is the harbinger of change, and change requires making sure the team understands Procurement will help the team meet its objectives while also bringing order to what may have been a “creative” purchasing process.

Ideally, Procurement should be involved in all projects from the very beginning, providing supply chain insight from the get-go. However, this ideal is not always met, and some projects may be well under way before deciding to bring a procurement officer on board. In this case, you may find that you’re being called in to fix problems rather than preventing them from happening in the first place.

Go back to the basics

Depending on the organization and the project, you may need to begin with a basic explanation of the procurement function; procurement in layman’s terms, if you will. Identify ways you can bring value to the team and support their objectives.

[blockquote style=”1″]Listening is key. Listen to their difficulties and find ways to help them fix their problems.[/blockquote]

Collaborate and communicate

As with any change process, as the new procurement officer on the project, you will have to find a way to obtain buy-in from the team so they understand why you’re there. Since your authority comes from the project manager, work on this relationship first. If the project manager requested your assistance, then you probably won’t have to spend much time on convincing him or her of your value, and then you can focus on the team. If you’re being sent to reign in an out-of-control project budget, for example, then it might take more time to obtain the buy-in from the project manager.

Take the time to meet with all team members; these are your internal customers. Listen to their needs and expectations. When possible, use this feedback to help you define your processes, so they can see you have taken their needs into consideration. The goal here is collaboration and open communication from the beginning. Keeping the lines of communication open as the project progresses will help show the team that you are there to work with them for the benefit of the project and the company as a whole.

Understand the project scope 

Next you should start immersing yourself in the project. You will need to have a clear understanding of the project’s scope and what types of procurement will need to take place. Identify project milestones and the overarching timeline, and use them to develop and prioritize your procurement plan. It’s likely that you’ll be working closely with designers, engineers, or other team members who have an in-depth understanding of the project. Take advantage of their expertise when sourcing materials and services. Your understanding of the supply chain and suppliers combined with their technical knowledge will ensure your RFPs are on point and you’re able to get the materials or services you need at the best value possible.

Get feedback

Again, communication is critical. Build in time and space for the team to provide feedback. For a project team that has never had to run purchases through a procurement process, your goal will be to create a fair and transparent sourcing and purchasing process – one that is well-documented and clearly communicated to both internal and external stakeholders.

To summarize, if the procurement function is new to your project team, here are the first steps to take.

  • For colleagues unfamiliar with procurement: explain how the procurement process works and how it can benefit the project.
  • Meet with the project manager and your peers and listen to their needs and expectations.
  • Establish the lines of communication and open the door to collaboration.
  • Understand the project scope.
  • Identify project milestones and the overall timeline.
  • Create a procurement plan with clear priorities and communicate it to the team.
  • Work closely with technical specialists when you need additional details on materials or services.
  • Look for feedback and use it to adjust the plan as needed.
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After graduating from Tallinn University of Technology with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Peep received a master’s degree in International Business Administration from the Estonian Business School. Peep spent five years at Ericsson Estonia as logistics manager, and then worked as a supply chain manager for the Baltic States at ABB until 2015. Peep has been a board member for Estonia's Purchasing and Supply Chain Management Association Prolog since 2014, and he is currently their CEO. He is also an advisor to DeltaBid, a startup providing procurement cloudware. Peep specializes in supply chain management, strategic sourcing, and supplier relationship management.