At Public Spend Forum, we’re interested in identifying the qualities that every procurement pro needs to succeed—not just in her career, but in fulfilling the agency’s mission.

One thing we discovered as we talked with experts in the field, no matter how much job descriptions change and the function evolves, there are qualities that today’s procurement pro will want to sharpen to ensure success.

In this conversation with three leading academics — Joseph Sandor, the Hoagland-Metzler Endowed Professor of Practice in Supply Management at the Eli Broad College of Business of Michigan State University, Timothy Laseter, Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and David Wyld, the C.E. Laborde Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University—we asked them what they saw as necessary to rising pros across the public sector. They each named three of the qualities or skills they see as integral to working in today’s environment.

Timothy Laseter: One of the fundamentals for me, at least in the federal government, is people who treat Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) as describing what you can’t do, but not describing what you can do. That’s a fundamental distinction, to my mind. There are some procurement professionals who say “f I can’t find it in the FAR, I can’t do it.” And there are some who say, “If I can’t find something in the FAR that says I can’t do it, then I will do it.” I think there’s a fundamental mindset there about the willingness to treat FAR as guidelines, rather than a rulebook. Second, they must view strategic sourcing as a process, not a solution or a template.

So they’re not just taking supply-base reduction or master contracts and trying to apply them, they’re comfortable with the process and getting different answers in different contexts. So it’s process-oriented rather than template-oriented, or hammer-looking-for-a-nail-oriented. And then the third one I would say is being effective in cross-collaboration across boundaries, versus someone who operates in their silo and it’s their job to make sure everyone’s following the rules rather than finding the best answers for the government.

Joseph Sandor: I would suggest business acumen with regard to understanding and implementing an integrated strategy, a cost or total-cost-of-ownership focus, and then relationship management with both internal stakeholders and suppliers.

David Wyld: With contracting professionals I’ve dealt with at both the front lines and at the executive level, one of the things that I’ve come away most impressed with is their analytical capabilities.

Second, would be their resourcefulness in terms of being able to really bring people together on a managerial level, and assembling team that really is focused on finding solutions to problems and taking a real proactive view in terms of satisfying the internal customer.

And third would be being able engage with the supplier community in a way that keeps them involved in government contracting. We know that’s a hard nut to crack, and certainly has some downsides in terms of timeframe for decision making, paperwork, etc. Keeping them engaged in public sector markets so we’re gaining access to the best goods and services available is a real challenge, and the work of the best procurement professionals really makes that happen.


Image Courtesy of StartUpStockPhotos

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