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Procurement as a profession is evolving at a pace that is increasingly in step with technology. While procurement was once seen as a transactional, process-driven function, technology is freeing us up to play a much more strategic part in driving organizational efficiencies and savings. Gone are the days of hanging out in the basement, pushing through stacks of purchase orders, and making purchasing decisions based on hunches. We are now being brought to the forefront, breaking out of silos and using data to make smarter decisions that drive savings for the enterprise.
As this transformation occurs, procurement leaders need to recognize the shift in skills that is needed for their office to stay in front of the wave. Much of what we looked for in a procurement officer in the past came down to several soft skills, which still form the foundation of what we look for today: Are you a good problem solver? Can you work with a variety of personalities? How do you handle stress? With these soft skills in place, a resourceful and hard-working new hire could hit the ground running and learn the technical aspects of a procurement job on the fly.
If you’ve ever been faced with the frustrating situation of having a Phillips head screwdriver in hand when you actually need a flathead, then you know what it’s like to not have the right tool when you need it. To deal with the myriad of issues they face on an almost daily basis, state procurement officials need all the tools they can get their hands on, and modular or iterative procurement is a key addition to the toolbox.
Modular and Agile methods can be game-changers in procurement offices, especially when it comes to IT procurement. Recently, NASPO and NASCIO joined forces by bringing State Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs and State Chief Information Officers (CIOs) together to talk about how to improve IT procurement. One of the key recommendations of the task force of CPOs and CIOs was to “use iterative/non-waterfall procurement methodologies when appropriate to improve procurement cycles, add flexibility, and reduce risk.” Everyone agrees that Agile and other iterative procurement methods are the future of state procurement… but how do we get there from here?
The road to true iterative procurement can be a rocky one, and if a state procurement office doesn’t plan well, those rocks can turn into boulders. It is key to think through the switch-over to non-waterfall methods, communicate with staff and key stakeholders about the changes being made, and constantly re-evaluate whether what is happening is working toward the betterment of the procurement process.