I faced the challenge first hand this week of trying to work with procurement teams who are completely independent of the technical colleagues who need our services. These are teams that treat all transactions in the same way and no value-add is given to any specific procurement.

In one case I found myself dealing with a 'faceless' procurement team, sitting behind a generic email. Not only did they just did not want to engage but also help connect me to the lead for the commission (which was won and awarded). "All opportunities under this contract will be published on our portal and there is no direct award, so we do not believe a meeting is needed" was their response. My response requesting for a meeting was lost on them yet it was based on a question they asked on the bid. They'd specifically asked about how we'll work with their team to build relationships and share knowledge.

In the second case, after twenty minutes on a central government switchboard, I finally found the procurement officer I needed to speak to. All I wanted was an update on a pitch we're awaiting feedback from (submitted in June). The procurement officer had since moved departments and didn't have any access to any information. But they did tell me "a recommendation was made for an award in July, but it's unlikely it'll get approved anytime soon because of the ongoing Brexit preparations".

Now my complaints here won't ring true for all procurement teams, but in my experience, the separation of procurement from technical creates a process-driven, not value-driven procurement. (And to a certain extent, that's the same for bid teams too.)

A challenge I see is that separated procurement teams will often treat all services and products in the same way. Naturally, CPOs will look to apply common methods to their procurement activities, after all, that's how you build a robust quality management system isn't it? Standard templates, process charts and proven tools all make procurement more efficient, but can sometimes fail to pick up the nuances of what's being bought.  

Treating buying consultancy services the same as buying 10,000 pens, for example, is asking for trouble. The commoditization of procurement activities leads to some of the behaviours I experienced. A sausage factory of tenders, pumping one procurement activity out after the next, with little thought to what the end goal is or, strategically, what value-add for money looks like.

 A procurement team who are purely responding to the requirements of their technical team will never truly understand the markets from which they're buying from. Also, they won’t get ahead of the curve and be able to think ahead as well as get the best deal for their organisation.

So what can we learn from this?

Procurement teams need to work as much on educating and engaging their internal stakeholders as they do with their suppliers. Building solid, trusted relationships between procurement and technical teams is vital as it adds value to your team. This can be achieved by embedding subject matter experts in procurement teams.

Only by truly understanding the market and its suppliers will teams get the best results, and leverage long term value for money for their organisation.