There are many similarities and differences between public and private procurement. However, the greatest overlap is the procurement life cycle or as some refer to it as the Procurement Journey.
This two-part series discusses the five steps of the procurement journey beginning with concept and development and continuing with posting, evaluation and award.
A solid procurement like a good building begins with a strong foundation which takes time to build properly. Concept and development are the two key procurement foundational elements which if built well can lead to a successful procurement.
Step 1 Concept
The concept stage consists of needs analysis, governance, project planning, research and risk assessment. These steps may not apply to every procurement but once completed they will inform the procurement strategy which then leads to development of procurement document.
Needs analysis ensures an accurate understanding of the goods / services being procured. Areas to consider include objectives, background, scope, constraints, deliverables, timing, approvals, policy and legislative requirements, evaluation criteria and methodology and contract management including KPIs.
It is important that key subject matter experts (SMEs) are involved with the planning of the project. Effective project governance establishes who will be on the team and clearly outlines roles and responsibilities. A RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) chart is an effective project governance tool so that team members understand their responsibilities and to ensure accountability throughout the procurement process.
Once the procurement team has been established and roles and responsibilities determined a project plan should be developed. A Gantt chart is an effective tool for establishing high level milestones. Once established the individual steps can be added. It is recommended that there be an overlap between each major milestone to allow for inevitable delays despite the best project plan. Actual timelines should be tracked against the baseline so one can see if they are ahead or behind the project time. As someone once said, “You can never have too much time for a procurement!”
Depending on the complexity of the procurement one may need to conduct research to better understand what is being procured. The outcome will help develop the procurement strategy, clarify the requirements, validate assumptions, and provide a recommendation as to how to proceed. Research may include product searches to confirm requirements, jurisdictional scans to assess how others have procured similar requirements, online searches for costing models to structure the commercial evaluation and a review of relevant legislative requirements.
If the above does not yield sufficient information, there maybe a need to gather more information or market intelligence by conducting a Request for Information (RFI) and/or issuing a draft RFB.
The last step is to undertake a risk assessment. The risk assessment should identify, to the extent possible, all procurement/contractual risks, their likelihood and impact, and related mitigation strategies.
Once the above steps are completed the procurement resource will have identified the type of procurement method, the associated risks and mitigation strategy, RFx scope and deliverables, required disclosures, evaluation criteria and pricing strategy.
While the above may appear daunting and time intensive not all steps are required for all procurements. The more complex the procurement the greater the requirement to utilize the above process to develop the procurement strategy to lead to a good procurement outcome.
Step 2 – Development
Once the procurement strategy is developed and agreed to the next step in the procurement journey is to begin drafting or developing the procurement documents for distribution.
There are many different etendering systems used by various levels of governments. The commonality is that posted procurement documents should outline the objective of the projection (the deliverables), the evaluation criteria, sometimes referred to as the technical envelope, and then the pricing or commercial section. Here is a link to the Federal Government’s website explaining its procurement process. The Procurement Process – Buyandsell.gc.ca
The introductory procurement section should clearly outline the procurement details including key dates. Any mandatory eligibility requirements should also be included in this section. Much has been written about mandatories, but they are to be evaluated on a pass (yes) or fail (no) basis and must relate to the bidders’ ability to provide the requested goods / services. They should be kept to a minimum and are a ‘need’ not a ‘want’. If in doubt the mandatory should be placed in the technical section and evaluated. A mandatory is a mandatory and if a bidder fails it generally cannot proceed further. Many procurements have failed on this issue due to the misunderstanding of their use.
The evaluation process includes how the procurement will be evaluated and the allocation between qualitative (technical) and quantitative (pricing) criteria. A best practice is to include the form of agreement (terms and conditions) that the successful bidder(s) will be expected to sign. Any issues with the form of agreement should be raised during the question-and-answer period before the procurement closes.
The evaluation criteria must closely align with the deliverables. (ie) what is being sought. A procurement is not the time nor the place to undertake a ‘fishing expedition’ to seek out additional unrelated ‘nice to have’ information. In today’s time constrained environment, the more streamlined the procurement response process – the better. Some suggestions are to limit the number of procurement questions by asking yourself “Does this question link directly to the deliverables and what am I going to do with this information?” Another suggestion is to try and maximize the number of closed ended questions to facilitate automated scoring of bid submissions.
The deliverables should becomprehensive and written clearly detailing the goods/services that must be provided by the successful Bidder(s). It should describe all aspects of the deliverables and should be in generic/functional terms and/or reference industry standards (where applicable).
The Commercial section details all pricing-related information and where bidders submit their pricing and should it include all applicable costs to calculate The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
Once the draft procurement document is prepared it may be subject to specific legal review and final approval before posting. Each organization has its own process.
Let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve discussed.
The procurement life cycle, often called the “Procurement Journey,” is a systematic approach suitable for the public sector and private industry. This journey, a cornerstone of public procurement, begins with the “Concept” phase. Here, the primary objective is to capture the procurement needs and requirements. A detailed needs analysis is essential, diving into the specifics of the goods or services being procured. Key elements to consider include objectives, scope, deliverables, timelines, and evaluation criteria. Effective project governance is paramount, ensuring that roles are distinctly outlined. Tools like the RACI chart, often used by procurement consultants, are invaluable in this phase. Research, a crucial component of purchasing and supply chain management, aids in refining requirements, validating assumptions, and shaping the procurement strategy. Occasionally, there’s a need for enhanced market intelligence, leading to tools such as Request for Information (RFI) or draft RFBs. The concept phase culminates with a risk assessment, pinpointing potential procurement challenges and their countermeasures.
As the journey transitions to the “Development” phase, the focus shifts to crafting comprehensive procurement documents. These documents, pivotal in procurement services, should clearly detail objectives, evaluation criteria, and pricing methodology. Ensuring that the evaluation criteria align seamlessly with the deliverables is vital. The procurement process, overseen by experienced public sector consultants, should be streamlined, emphasizing the deliverables and their details. Once the draft is ready, it undergoes legal scrutiny and final approval, adhering to the organization’s protocols. Following these steps meticulously can bolster the chances of a robust procurement process with a solid foundation.
Following these steps while not guaranteeing a perfect procurement outcome should go a long way to ensure a quality procurement document with a strong foundation.
Part 2 of The Procurement Journey will continue next month covering posting, evaluation and contract award.
Author: Graham Allen
Graham Allen is recently retired from Supply Chain Ontario. As a Category Manager he managed the entire procurement life cycle for several Enterprise Vendor of Record Arrangements as well as individual ministry procurements. Graham is a UBC Sauder School of Business graduate and holds the CSCMP designation. Hobbies include white water canoeing, hiking, travelling and reading.
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