Do You Work Effectively with Your Procurement Department?

As a project management specialist, getting what you need when you need it is imperative for a successful outcome. This means you have to work closely with your company’s Procurement Department (Purchasing). If you are constantly at odds with the purchasing agents, this can hamper your ability to work effectively. Things don’t have to be this way since your departments share some of the same goals (to stay on track and under budget). Here are 4 possible areas for improvement in communication and collaboration:

Give Early Notice

If you are commencing a large project, the Purchasing Director may need to assign a buyer full time to fulfilling your requisitions. That impacts the manpower available to devote to other tasks. As a professional courtesy, you should keep the Director apprised of the scope of upcoming projects. Don’t simply send over a huge list of required items and services that will take Purchasing by surprise. When buyers have to scramble to get things done, costly mistakes are much more likely.

Plus, you might think an item is available off the shelf when it actually has a 6 week lead time. When you make assumptions, your project may experience unexpected delays. The more information the Procurement Department has up front, the more accurate your overall project management planning will become.

Don’t Make Agreements

Unless you have the authority to spend your employer’s money, never agree to buy anything from a vendor. This applies to verbal statements and written contracts. The number one way to make your Procurement Department angry is by usurping their authority. When they have to go back and renegotiate a deal and break promises you made to a vendor, this makes their job much harder than it should be.

If you do speak with vendors directly, it may be OK to ask for initial price quotes. However, make it clear that you are only doing a preliminary investigation into costs and that a purchasing agent will be in charge of any further discussion. Don’t try to haggle about pricing – you may inadvertently disclose information that should be kept confidential. Experienced buyers know how to finesse vendors and maintain control of the conversation. It is in your best interest to leave negotiations to trained purchasing agents.

Double Check Your Specs

You and your staff members are the experts on what you need to complete your project. This means you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the specifications for the components, equipment, or services you requisitioned are correct.

A good purchasing agent will do his or her best to become conversant in the technical terminology required to discuss your project requirements. However, buyers often handle the procurement of dozens (or hundreds) of different items in an average week. This means there is a limit to how much new knowledge they can absorb. When they buy exactly what you tell them to and it turns out to be the wrong item, you will take the blame for the mistake.

On the other hand, you need to be on the lookout for buyers who substitute a cheaper product in order to get a better price. They may be under pressure to do this to stay within budget – or simply to enhance their next performance evaluation. For critical components, always ask to see the final specs prior to order placement. Make this type of request politely in writing (email is fine) so it will be taken seriously and you will have a copy of the correspondence for your project management records.

Prepare to Defend Your Preferences

The Purchasing Director typically has the final say over which vendor will be awarded a contract or purchase order. If you have a preference for using one vendor over another, you must be able to clearly show how this choice benefits your company. Buyers are expected to be impartial in their decision making process and they expect the same attitude from you.

Conflict Resolution in Project Management

The inevitable conflict that occurs in project management may not necessarily be a bad thing. Conflict occurs when individual goals or needs clash. One reason it is so common in project management is because projects often include people with different ideals and personalities. The term conflict generally carries a negative connotation however conflict can be constructive and serve to help to build relationships and improve team dynamics. The key is in the resolution of that conflict.

The project manager must be able to address problems while respecting individual differences. Maintaining good relationships should be a top priority. Be calm and treat one another courteously even if you are under a great deal of pressure.

Be careful not to confuse the person with the problem. Sometimes project managers believe people are just trying to be difficult when, in effect, they are making a valid argument. By listening carefully to the problem you end up debating real issues and have a better understanding of why the person has taken such a position. In addition, when you understand where the person is coming from you are better able to defend your position.

Revisit and agree on the project objectives then take a close look at the facts surrounding the situation. By working together you could find the answer lies in a third position involving compromise or in thinking outside the box. The fact that you arrived at this decision jointly will foster respect and help maintain or build a good relationship.

There are many ways to deal with conflict in project management and these are just a few ideas for turning a potentially volatile situation into one that positively impacts the project.