Refrain of the unappreciated: Who will know?
Purchasing. Procurement. Acquisition. Materials Management. Do any of these titles really depict the knowledge we require and the value we add to our organizations? Is it ever evident to our organizations how we capture research, view the historical data, analyze market trends, use indexes and know which ones to use? Does anyone know how we combine like items and coordinate purchases among departments in order to negotiate better pricing and reduce duplication? Who will know?
We use our risk management knowledge to include various insurance requirements in our documents, while not unduly increasing the contract cost. We create databases and share with other departments to create tools for historical and future costs and to provide a tickler for renewals. We know the budget, internal policies, external regulations and statutes. We can find the best pricing and go to contract while complying with all the regulatory requirements. Who will know?
Let’s not forget the management skills we require, or the skills of customer service, counseling, teaching and self-control (this one sometimes gets away from me!).
Let’s talk bidding — not just about the end-product but about what the board, the commission, the council and the using department don’t see.
Purchasing is the last link in the chain, the last step in the process before the award goes to the various boards, commissions and councils. Delays may have come from the evaluation committee, from a bid document that is not reviewed in a timely manner — because the originally provided specs were garbage and needed revision — or because the attorney’s office sat on the contract review for weeks. No sirree, any delay will be your fault and no one else’s! So you continue to research and you write the specs and you issue the bid.
Fortunately, you were able to answer questions throughout the bid process and your research was admirable. You received some good proposals. Maybe it was through an RFP process or you may have even negotiated a better deal. Who will know?
As you are sitting at the board, commission or council meeting listening to the accolades being spread like fairy dust over the using department, your eyes just glaze over. The only recognition you and your department would have received would have been the public flogging if the bid had been delayed.
We are much more than a title. I have tried and failed to come up with a standardized name for the function we perform. More so than for any other department, everything we do is out there for public scrutiny. The savings we generate are difficult to quantify because they are “pre-spend” savings. We know enough about our goods and services to be smart negotiators. So, we are affecting the savings for our entity prior to “the spend.” We are using our skills and providing savings up front. Who will know?
So is our lot. It will come to you the next time you are at your board, commission or council meeting and you see the power and the glory and the holier-than-thou praises being given to the user department — that very department that would probably have been willing to request a bid for 300 pickup trucks for a little town with 100 employees and five major roads. We are the Rodney Dangerfields of our organizations. Just remember the words of our mentor: “I get no respect!”
Pam Hayes is purchasing manager of Lake County School Board, Tavares, Fla.