Voices on Project Management

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Procurement: A Project Manager's Best Friend

Categories: Procurement

We all agree that projects need things. These things can run the gamut, from pencils to gas turbines. In the past, the corporate function that acquired things for projects was called "purchasing." Its sole role was to do what the title implies — purchase things. As corporate governance evolved, so did the purchasing department into what we now know as procurement.

Today, procurement has to orchestrate the acquisition of hundreds, if not thousands, of things for projects on a daily basis. In addition, this department puts in place policies that keep project managers from purchasing a gas turbine when they need only a pencil.
  
Traditionally, project managers have viewed procurement departments as a barrier to progress and a constant source of frustration. However, this friction can sometimes be the fault of the project manager, who's not practicing good stakeholder management with procurement team members. 

As with any other stakeholder, team members from procurement need to be an integral part of the project team. Let's look at ways to make this happen, as well as the benefits of doing so: 

  1. Share the big picture. Project managers tend to assume that procurement team members already have deep knowledge of the things they need to acquire for the project. Even with procurement departments dividing acquisition activities into product categories, it's nearly impossible for procurement team members to know everything about their product category. To enable a smooth acquisition process, share the objectives, scope and schedule for the project with them. By clearly understanding the needs of the project, the procurement team can be more effective in acquiring things for the project in a timely and effective manner.  
  2. Clear division of responsibilities. As part of the project, procurement team members need to understand their roles and connection points with other team members. This understanding of others' roles is essential so that the procurement team members know what and with whom to execute acquisition activities. In addition, it is also essential to discuss the best way to engage suppliers with procurement team members, as a poor supplier engagement process can adversely impact the project budget, costs and resulting benefits. A good side effect of discussing vendors together is that the project manager and procurement team members work closely and keep each other informed of acquisition progress and potential issues.   
  3. Recognition as a key team member. Acquisition activities on projects can involve both short-term consumables (e.g., printer paper, temporary office space, etc.), as well as long-term capital investments (e.g., software and hardware). Especially in the latter case, the activities of procurement team members can have a substantial influence on the outcome of the project. When organizing the project, ensure that procurement members are a visible and engaged part of the team that reports to the project manager. They should also be included in project team meetings and project work plan, and contribute to the project status report. 

By adopting these practices, you can better leverage the specialized skills of procurement team members — and you just might be able to acquire both pencils and turbines in a manner that will keep your project on schedule.

What methods can you recommend to help integrate procurement into your project team? 

Posted by Kevin Korterud on: February 12, 2014 05:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

PMBOK®Guide for the Trenches, Part 7: Procurement and Human Resources

I'm linking the procurement and human resources chapters of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) together for the simple reason that I have absolutely no idea why they're in there in the first place. I have never been in or encountered an organization of any size that lumps human resources and procurement departments under the head of project management.

I'm pretty sure this is because human resources and procurement should be understood as asset management, not project management. Asset and project management are completely different animals, with different objectives, tools and methods for attaining their respective goals.

Those differences were vividly illustrated for me when I was working on a software project for my organization's human resources department. I had loaded the schedule into a critical path network, pulled status and recalculated the projected end dates. When I was presenting the resulting Gantt chart to the human resources manager, I pointed out that one set of activities involving the software coders looked like it would be delayed, and, if it was, it would delay other key milestones.
 
"Tell everyone to come to work this weekend and maybe next," was his automatic reply. "Wait," I interjected. "These activities have nothing to do with your folks - it's the management information systems people who are involved here, and we don't even know what their difficulty is. It may not be fixable with more people working it." "No difference," he replied. "This project is so important that all of our assets must be performing optimally."

Of course, project management is not about the performance of assets. It's about attaining the scope that the customer is expecting, within the customer's parameters of cost and schedule.

I'm engaging in a little bit of hyperbole here, but most project managers don't concern themselves about whether they should have bought or rented a key piece of equipment. They care about whether or not the job gets done on time and within budget.

Procurement is in the same boat. Sure, it's important that the procurement professionals who work with you are very good at what they do. But they obtain assets and are similarly afflicted by the asset managers' mind set.

I just don't think we're kindred spirits. But, if there are any human resources or procurement heavy-hitters out there who think our managerial goals and techniques are completely compatible, I'd love to hear from you.

Posted by MICHAEL HATFIELD on: August 13, 2010 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
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