When’s the Last Time You Updated that Procurement Manual?

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Policies, Procedures, Guidelines and User Manuals

By Tammy Rimes

Procurement teams live by rules and regulations. It guides our decision making, and helpful when a procedure clearly states "thou shalt not" or "thou shalt do it this way" to clearly outline the rules. As new laws are passed or situations arise, procedures are developed over time. However, let me put you on the spot. When was the last time your policies and manuals were updated? Within the past two years? Five years? Who knows?

Okay, I hear that collective "groan" out there...you are way too busy. Who has time to review and possibly re-do the whole manual?  It's a big task and not for the faint of heart.  But instead of taking on a massive, time-consuming, gut-wrenching project, why not break it down? Look at the individual parts - Pcard policy, Sole Source procedure, RFP template - and choose to concentrate on one part. While it may be related to other sections, just focus on that chosen task. When it's finally updated, then choose another part. Step by step, over time, the project you thought was unsurmountable is now getting done.

If you are unsure if your procedures and manuals are due for a "nip and tuck," then here are some questions and ideas to consider:

1)      Forms!  Government loves forms and generally delineates each one with a number. Now, check out the date (in fine print!) next to that number. If that date is more than five years old, it's time to update. Times have changed and people don't have landlines, fax machines, or items considered essential just a few years ago. Pretend you are a customer and complete the form yourself. If there are sections that seem redundant, then take them out!

2)      Old Technology. Many of our policies and procedures were developed during a time when current technologies did not exist. For instance, many agencies require all notices be advertised in a local newspaper. With real-time, on-line posting capabilities and social media outreach, is that still the best way? Imagine the savings in time and costs by moving to an on-line notification system.  Even if you are required to go with the local news...can that posting be online instead?

3)      Terms and Conditions. Yes, that fine print that we all read in detail at one time, but now generally cut/paste into all new contracts.Those might have been created by yours and your assigned Counsel's predecessors. Do they still make sense now? There might be something in there to cover one specific circumstance from the past that just doesn't exist today. Why hamper yourself and your vendors with undue burdens?

4)      User Friendly.  Most of your customers do not want to read the whole procurement manual to complete a specific task. Could easy User Guides be created by taking the most commonly practiced procurement activities with simple 1-2-3 step guidelines that anyone can follow? Maybe it could eliminate some frustration, and minimize questions coming into your office.

5)      Fill-in templates. Many agencies strive to create templates - for bids, RFP's and contracts.  Then that document gets updated and changed. Using the latest features in most word processing systems, why not have a form that asks questions, and then populates the template with the answers? That way, the original template maintains its integrity, and the end-user can quickly answer basic questions to obtain a completed document.

Not all these ideas work for every Agency...everyone is unique. However, just consider that policies and procedures are not set in stone...they are "living" documents that should be updated regularly to keep up with the times. Doing so will not only help your customers, but assist your team as well.

Do You Have a Great Idea?

If you have an idea that made your process easier or more effective, I would love to hear from you! Procurement teams enjoy hearing success stories with good ideas. None of us have all the answers, and its great to share what others are doing well. Email your idea to possibly include in an article or presentation...with full credit to you!

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