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Positioning Procurement Management to Support Enterprise Goals

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Stephen Gordon
July 31, 2015

In my previous column, I stated that I would talk about the changes needed in government and the academy to position and empower public procurement and contract management in order to make strategic contributions. I still intend to do that. However, in this column I will address the important role individual human beings can play to position and equip procurement and contract management in government at all levels to support enterprise goals.

Let’s begin with the senior executives in government who are held accountable for the achievement of their enterprise’s strategic goals. These individuals, whether at the federal, state or local level, surely recognize the risks and opportunities inherent in contracting for goods or services. Yet, the evidence suggests that they do not seem to give a lot of attention to mitigating those risks and exploiting those opportunities.

There is a noteworthy exception. In the early 2000s, the city and county managers in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia conceived and drove the creation of the Graduate Certificate in Public Procurement and Contract Management at Old Dominion University (ODU). Having witnessed the positive difference made by strategically-minded procurement pros like Bill Davis (who is retiring this year after many years of outstanding service to several local governments in the Hampton Roads region), they concluded it was time to provide formally for the development of an ongoing stream of public procurement and contract management officials. With the help and support of others, including ODU alumnus and International City/County Management Association Executive Director Bob O’Neill, himself a former city manager in Hampton Roads, they took action. The fruits of their efforts are beginning to ripen, as students from that program are now entering the workforce. Are you also in a position where you could and should take similar action to create a flow of educated, trained and strategically minded public procurement and contract management officials in your agency or program?

Let’s change the scene to those individuals who work in government procurement and contract management in Hampton Roads. On July 22, 2015, it was my privilege to attend a meeting of local and state procurement officials convened by Elizabeth Dooley, the purchasing agent for the City of Norfolk. The enthusiasm in that room was palpable. The procurement officials who were there that day spoke with great excitement about how the mutual benefit they will enjoy by getting together regularly, in person, to share and discuss ideas, information, experiences, lessons learned, concerns and news of coming events and opportunities. It was obvious that the attendees and those who will join them are going to do a lot more than talk and eat when they get together. At least initially, the group intends to meet monthly.

Are you, or do you know, an Elizabeth Dooley in your agency, local government or geographical or virtual area?  They are out there and many of them are leading or supporting initiatives that are much farther down the road than the one that is being created in Hampton Roads. If such initiatives are already underway in your area, what are you doing to support them? If they are not underway, what are you doing to get them organized?

If you “get” the strategic importance of procurement and contract management in government, what are you – as an individual, regardless of where you sit inside or outside the public entity for which you work, work with or are served by — waiting on? What will it take to get you to initiate programs and activities to assure that the work done in this important area is done as well as it should be done?  You, as one human being, can make a difference.

Author: Stephen B.  Gordon, Ph.D., FNIGP, CPPO, is the program director of the Graduate Certificate in Public Procurement and Contract Management at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Dr. Gordon is a member of the graduate faculty of the department of urban studies and public administration in the College of Business and Public Administration. He can be contacted by email at [email protected].

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