For Procurement Problems in Government Contracting, Try These Outsider Tips
Government contracting is known as a detail-oriented process that relies on plans and procedures, but Public Spend Forum is offering tips to help companies with procurement problems so they can improve the process where they can. And that involves changing your mindset, being flexible and ensuring that you have talented people.
The tips come from the agile model for addressing the constant change associated with modern business, and Public Spend Forum, a sister site of ours, explains how these principles can relate to procurement practices.
“The model is based around four core values and 12 principles described in the Agile Manifesto, which is worth reviewing to understand the philosophy,” PSF says, noting that the original agile framework was used to help software development teams achieve better outcomes in shorter times.
The four core agile values are shown in bold, with a “translation” for what it means for procurement. They are:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: “While the process of procurement is important, it’s exponentially more important to focus on getting innovative and competent people working on problems and projects and communicating effectively,” PSF says.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation: “It’s thought that a never-ending list of specifications and requirements make our needs and orders more specific and therefore better fitted, but this isn’t the case,” PSF states. “What this really does is waste valuable time drowning contractors in requirements and processes rather than communicating situations and coming up with creative solutions to problems.”
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: “Business relationships are similar to the ones we build in our daily lives, and we don’t use contracts for those,” PSF says. “Yes, contracts have their place, but let’s be honest, they’re pretty inefficient ways of managing business relationships because that’s just not how humans work.”
- Responding to change over following a plan: “It becomes important to get smart, trustworthy people working on procurement projects; people you can rely on to adapt and make smart decisions,” PSF says. “Have a plan, yes, but if things change trust that these people you’ve put in this position have the experience, innovation, and agility to make the best decision for your firm or agency.”
Before the article looks at some of the 12 principles, it reiterates how the four core values different than how government contracting typically works.
“As you can see, the values are structured in such a way as to value a new model of doing businesses (on the left) over an old model way of doing business (on the right),” PSF says. “This is also not to say those old ways are no longer valuable, but rather the new ways are more important in agile. It’s all about relearning how to operate in order to keep up with the ever-evolving market economy.”
The article boils down the 12 principles into the five that most apply to procurement. They are:
- Welcome changing requirements, even in late development
- Deliver working software (solutions) frequently (weeks rather than months)
- Close, daily cooperation between businesspeople and developers
- Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
- Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential
The article then puts each principle into a procurement context (it’s worth a read), but the last one needs more explanation here.
“This principle (about simplicity) hits home for a lot of procurement professionals,” PSF states. “It seems like the more public procurement holds tight to its rigid formality and rules, the more unnecessary work there is for the procurement agents on the ground. First, unnecessary work is wasted time. Second, the lighter the load for your procurement agents the easier it becomes to quickly switch gears if the market shifts.”