Move fast when hiring seasoned public procurement pros
Theresa Webb, who recently retired as Procurement Official in Manatee County, Fla., says there is a lot of competition in the marketplace for experienced public procurement staffers. Webb, who has more than 30 years of experience in procurement in both the private and public sectors, says it is important to move quickly on the recruitment process and make an offer to the selected candidate. “Otherwise, they may accept a position at another organization.”
Webb says identifying a candidate’s skill level is relatively easy during the recruiting and interview process. When recruiting, Webb says the bulk of the interview time should be spent learning if the recruit’s values match with your procurement department’s culture. “There should be questions about what motivates them, their workload expectations, and the career accomplishments they are most proud of, and how they would handle an applicable work situation they might confront as an employee.” Webb believes procurement directors should include a random question to the recruit that a specific answer can’t be given. “This will give a recruiter a perspective on how candidates analyze a situation and go about solving problems.” Webb offers this question as an example: “How long does it take to complete a solicitation process?”
Webb suggests public procurement teams should consider adjusting the initial application process to ensure attracting strong candidates. “A lengthy series of steps may dissuade qualified candidates from applying. Perhaps for the first phase, have the applicant upload a resume with cover letter and then answer 6-8 critical questions. If they make the first cut, then a more formal application could be part of the hiring procedure.”
Throughout her career in government, Webb has successfully used national and regional cooperative contracts. “Cooperative agreements are one option to consider when conducting your market research and determining the best procurement method,” Webb says. “Certainly, they can save time for public procurement departments. The process of drafting a solicitation, conducting the solicitation process, negotiating contract terms and conditions and obtaining required approvals generally takes four to six months from start to finish, assuming there are no issues, protests or other delays.” With a cooperative deal, the time-savings are real, Webb explains. “By contrast, the process for issuing an agency contract using a pre-negotiated cooperative agreement can be done in about four to six weeks; that time-frame includes obtaining governing board approval.”
To help the agencies she’s managed become more efficient, Webb has created templates for each type of solicitation and each type of contract. “Templates can either be documents housed on the agency’s common drive or electronic documents integrated within the procurement enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Using templates can streamline the document-creation process because buyers can move quickly from field to field in a fillable, locked form creating a solicitation document ready for final review within a couple of hours rather than a couple of days,” Webb says. The templates also help achieve dramatic improvements in document quality, she adds. “Since only the information inserted into the fillable sections can be modified by buyers, templates can significantly reduce the time required for review before publishing.”
Procurement departments need to conduct market research and market analysis to stay in front of the curve, Webb says. Market research can include gathering information on pricing and availability, economic factors, environmental considerations, new or emerging technologies and competitive factors on the vendors in the industry. “Ongoing market intelligence allows for response to changes taking place in the market. It provides valuable insights such as items that are no longer needed or no longer being produced or supported. With this intelligence, timely adaptations to contracts can be made or solicitations for new contracts issued,” Webb explains. She notes that conducting market research is a global best practice that is supported and promoted by NIGP-The Institute for Public Procurement.
Post-retirement, Webb has stayed active. She was the 2019-2020 president of the Florida Association of Public Procurement Officials (FAPPO). Webb now serves as CEO/President at Solut Consulting Services.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: [email protected]