As I talk to state Chief Procurement Officers and Chief Information Officers, I’ve heard a lot of different views about what a successful IT procurement looks like. In my experience, a truly effective IT procurement largely depends on a shared understanding of success from the outset and the latest trends in the marketplace.
Getting IT and Procurement together early is essential to understand the outcomes being targeted. It sounds obvious. But, too often, I see execution of the procurement process moving ahead without that shared understanding. It’s clear that IT and Procurement haven’t discussed how they can best work together to reach their commonly understood objectives.
So, an initial meeting early in the procurement process is key. Who should be there? In my view, there are four groups that really need to be present: the program area owner, IT, Procurement, and Legal. Legal should be involved so that they can understand the targeted outcomes and offer guidance about what rules and statutes may need to be taken into consideration. This helps avoid the scenario whereby the program area, IT, and Procurement agree on a procurement strategy only to see it run into legal roadblocks when it comes to execution.
These initial conversations are the building blocks of success. Based on my experience, a further critical step that I see progressive organizations taking is to document the agreements gained during early collaborative meetings. More and more governments are embracing project management processes and tools on major procurements. I especially like how project charters are now being increasingly deployed.
Project charters help secure consensus on a program’s sponsor, targeted outcomes, timing of key activities and milestones. In addition, a charter captures how success will be measured, and the specific roles and duties of key stakeholders. Having all relevant parties agree and sign-off on a project charter at the start can prove very powerful down the line. It helps to secure stakeholders’ commitment to engage in the program, as and when required. In its absence, I often see government procurement initiatives struggling to secure the right inputs from the right experts in a timely manner. Given that many government IT procurements can take six to nine months or more, being able to keep people engaged and motivated is critical.
Another key step early in the procurement process that is often overlooked is market research. Depending on the level of market information available to the program area owner, IT, and Procurement, the government may benefit by engaging with vendors or a third-party advisor to understand marketplace and technology trends before a procurement strategy is finalized. With the rapid pace of technology change today, having a finger on the pulse of new developments has never been more important to ensure the government is taking advantage of the latest, proven technologies in the market to support mission delivery.
Having early meetings with the program area, IT, Procurement and Legal, and conducting market research are all essential in my view for a successful IT Procurement. I believe there is a real opportunity to use these approaches more widely and systematically to deliver improved IT procurements that deliver sustainable value in less time.
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts, and please follow me on Twitter @bardga.
See this post on LinkedIn: Let’s talk: Early conversations between IT and procurement drive long-term success.