Getting Procurement to Support Projects: Mission Impossible?

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Procurement is the bane of many project managers. This is particularly true of procurement in the public sector, but not exclusively so. While this should not necessarily be the case, inarguably for many project managers--and for many organizations--it is. Understanding what to do about it, however, requires knowing why this impasse came to be and what can be done about it.

Procurement and project management go hand-in-hand. Except for projects that are fully managed and delivered internally (and while they exist, they are not the norm for many), there is typically a procurement requirement associated with most projects. Often, there are many requirements. In some instances, the entire management and delivery of a project is, in essence, the co-ordination of procurement efforts. Whether purchasing equipment, materials, supplies or services, project managers need to buy stuff.

In a perfect world, we’d just slap down our credit card and be done with it, or call up a supplier, order what we need and get them to send us an invoice. And indeed, project managers have been known to resort to this. Usually, however, it’s not so easy. There are regulations, processes and procedures to be followed. (And hell hath no fury like a procurement manager scorned.)

Where these evolving procurement requirements come from, and why, is in reality no different than how …

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"Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves."

- Bertrand Russell

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