Part 1: Navigating your company’s procurement process

This is the first in a series of articles which will cover different aspects of navigating the procurement process in your organization. If you work at a Fortune 100 or even a Fortune 500 company, the odds are that your company’s procurement process is far more complicated than sending Fred the procurement guy an email to ask him to purchase something for your project. At times navigating your way through a company’s procurement process can feel like finding your way through a maze.

It took me far longer than I would have liked to learn how to navigate the procurement process at my organization, and I’m confident that what I learned will be able to help you as well.

I work for a large multinational health insurance company and have been managing Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure projects here for a number of years. Infrastructure projects, by nature, generally involve replacing hardware or software, or both, and at a large organization, this means managing project capital budgets of several million dollars. The procurement organization’s main mission is to ensure that the money you are asking them to spend on your project is spent wisely and they are getting the best possible value for the price they pay.

I say this because it is very easy for a Project or Program Manager who has to navigate this process, to believe that procurement is a black hole where a bunch of evil people work whose main role in life is to make your project fail, or at least come in late. My success in navigating, and yes, even managing the procurement process for my projects, is the result of understanding the process, the organization, and the people who make up procurements. By creating an environment where everyone gets what they need when they need it. I have been able to build the procurement process into project schedules and deliver large-scale projects on time.

Did I say there would be no pain involved? No. I did not. However, the pain usually comes early, goes away fairly quickly, and in the end, the procurement guys are just as happy as the recipients of the project deliverables.

Process

The procurement process at most Fortune 100 companies is complex and requires hand-offs in both directions between several departments. I will use my organization’s process to illustrate this, and I am hopeful that you will be able to find the equivalent departments in your organization.

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