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Procurement Planning – An Important Spoke in the Wheel


Bicycle wheel photo
Photo by Robert Couse-Baker from Flickr Creative Commons

With the recent uncertainty over further sequestration and a possible second government shutdown, many agencies and components of the federal government have been asked to identify those procurement actions that are critical and have the potential to cause major operational dysfunction if delayed. While this drill is important, it’s also a reminder that procurement planning should be comprehensive.   All planning eventually has implications on the rest of the fiscal year and sometimes across fiscal years.

This highlights the criticality of “planning” for your procurement plan prior to each fiscal year. A solid plan in the beginning ensures that governmental funds are tracked with efficiency and fidelity, and that organizations function economically. Although the Procurement Plan may be seen as a small spoke in the wheel, it is nonetheless a critical spoke.

A good procurement plan tracks several key pieces of information for decision makers and stakeholders:

  • Status of Procurement Requests (PR): It is important for procurement statuses (planned, committed, obligated) to be readily available, especially at the end of the fiscal year when there is an urgency  to let remaining action planned contracts that support mission critical functions.
  • Owner of Contract Responsibilities and PR Actions: When funding issues arise with actions, knowing who is responsible is critical to ensure that there are no lapses in work. The procurement plan has that information readily available so that responsible parties can be reached and to ensure solutions are expeditiously achieved.
  • Division Funding a Specific PR: Some PRs are funded jointly between various divisions and sometimes even with other governmental agencies. When this happens it is easy for funding sources to become convoluted. A good procurement plan keeps funding controls in place so that each portion of a PR’s funding can be clearly traced to its original source.
  • Elements Needed for Each PR to be Successfully Executed in a Timely Fashion: Each PR is unique.   Different types of PRs have different artifact requirements for execution and part of the job of the procurement plan is to ensure that document milestones are tracked so that Procurement Leads (PR generators) have everything they need to stay on top of their actions. For example, a PR that is generated for the purposes of Cyber-Security enhancements has more artifact requirements than a PR that is generated to fund a parking garage lease. The execution of both of these PRs have budgetary impacts as they are “planned for” actions and verifying that the proper artifacts follow these PR packages ensures that they are committed and then obligated without road blocks.

A successful procurement plan is only as good as the information that is being fed into it. This is why it is important for Procurement Planners to remain engaged with and have a degree of knowledge about the procurement process. Here are some tips that help ensure proper procurement plan execution:

  1. Work closely with Procurement Leads to ensure that accurate information is entered and that issues are resolved quickly and accurately. Transposing numbers is a simple mistake, but it can cause PR execution problems. There is a huge budgetary difference between $9.6 million and $6.9 million. Maximizing initial accuracy is key.
  2. Make sure that procurement funding changes are recorded as they occur, in an effort to maintain reporting fidelity. Project requirements sometimes change and that can cause increases or decreases in funding projections for planned actions. It is important that these changes are recorded in the procurement plan so that accurate reports can be generated.
  3. Maintain understanding of the procurement plan so that Ad Hoc reports can be quickly generated. Procurement plan managers often meet with members from other departments to ensure congruency. For example, at a DHS agency I support, all of the divisions have their own procurements and their own planning process. These different approaches must all feed into one Procurement Plan and the plan managers must be able to understand how all the different divisional pieces fit into one Procurement Plan. The progress of procurement actions is tracked in weekly reports and the requirements for said reports can change weekly. Flexibility and understanding of the workings of the plan is integral to successful execution.

It is imperative that procurement plan managers, who maintain the procurement plan on a daily basis, keep open communication with procurement leads, who create new PRs and ensure that proper artifacts are accounted for. Timely and accurate information helps make life easier for everyone involved and it ensures that the team as a whole fires on all cylinders.

Working together is the key here. It is cliché, but the acronym TEAM is true: Together Everyone Achieves More. Working as a team enables us to better serve our customer and enables us to prevent problems and quickly solve those that do arise. This is especially true during the current fiscal uncertainty and tight budgets. Success will revolve around everyone working together, and making procurement planning a focus throughout the fiscal year.