Legendary times legendary opportunity
Times are tough. Agencies everywhere struggle with unprecedented challenges, including the economy, unemployment, natural disasters and environmental tragedies. Each day brings new events that impact our communities and agencies as we struggle to deal with our current challenges, and, more importantly, to make ourselves sustainable over the long term. While economists, industry experts and politicians may tell us things are improving, many agencies continue to feel the pain of the recession.
Over the next two fiscal years, state governments are expected to face shortfalls in excess of $260 billion. As governments attempt to balance their budgets, some turn to traditional solutions of reducing spend, tapping into “rainy-day” funds and enacting new fees. Others pursue more drastic measures, including layoffs, pay cuts, furloughs, new taxes and even bankruptcy. Although these approaches may render short-term fixes, government needs long-term, systemic change to resolve what ails it. But let’s not wallow in our collective misery, standing around the water cooler and lamenting the sins of the decision-makers. Instead, I call upon procurement to rise to our challenges, recognize the opportunities that exist, and take action.
We live in legendary times, and with legendary times come legendary opportunities. Are we prepared to become an organizational legend? Is procurement ready to contribute to long-term, systemic change? Are we ready to provide solutions and create a sustainable organization? By demonstrating your value, resolving to run operations more like a business and committing to find new ways to contribute, you can answer a resounding “yes.”
During the 2010 NIGP Annual Forum, my “Creating Legendary Savings in Your Organization” presentation was aimed at helping procurement professionals recognize that regardless of position or years of experience, we are uniquely positioned and equipped to identify solutions for our agencies. To do this, we must understand the value we bring to our agency, quantify that value, and share results in a manner that will resonate with our decision-makers.
How do we start? We create a list of opportunities that will produce hard and soft savings, avoid costs and even generate revenue for our organization. We present ourselves as proactive solution providers rather than reactionary process facilitators. We ask questions of ourselves and our leadership: Should procurement participate in organizational decisions on what services or commodities should be acquired? Should procurement offer up ideas on how the agency could save money? Is our organizational structure the most efficient? Should we consider providing new services that could generate revenue?
As we create our list of opportunities, we should consider everything from removing restrictive specifications within a solicitation, to identifying potential price and scope reductions in current contracts, to increasing p-card usage. Procurement should look for opportunities to streamline, delay or eliminate expenditures. We should reach out to neighboring agencies to look for opportunities in cooperative contracting. We should discuss how we can share our resources. And there is much more we should do.
Once the list of opportunities is created, it’s time to prioritize. Each agency is unique, so the list will look different for each of us. Consider reaching out to stakeholders for their ideas on how to create organizational savings. Don’t forget the powerful network of NIGP, which provides free access to list serves, research, a well-stocked resource library, best practices and much more.
We have made great strides in marketing the value of procurement and positioning ourselves for that proverbial “seat at the table.” Our contributions have earned us leadership roles in our agencies. Whether we are at the table or waiting for a seat, let’s remember that we must find meaningful ways to share savings with our decision-makers. Many of our decision-makers are politicians who are businesspeople by trade, and what resonates most with businesspeople? Profit and loss, return on investment and bottom-line figures. Learn to communicate your successes so that they can appreciate procurement’s help in solving current challenges.
The bottom line: Procurement is a critical resource for our agencies and communities. If we demonstrate specific results, our agencies will value our role in helping out through troubled times and in establishing a sustainable future. So, let’s get started. And share your successes.
About the author
Marcheta E. Gillespie, CPPO, CPPB, C.P.M. CPM, is deputy director of procurement for Tucson, Ariz., and NIGP third vice president.