The Seven Essential Skills of a Public Procurement Professional

By: Paul Emanuelli

Public sector procurement departments are under unprecedented pressure to deliver results for their organizations. Moving forward, these pressures are going to place increasing demands on procurement departments to develop highly functioning procurement teams. This article summarizes the seven essential skills you need to develop within your team and look for in your new recruits.

1. Institutional Governance

Institutional governance is the first essential skill set of a public procurement professional. While many within the public sector take their institutional governance for granted, knowing how to implement and operate within a complex system of internal rules that include procurement accountability controls, integrity protocols and treaty compliance practices is much harder than it may look from the outside. A solid understanding of public administration, including a clear understanding of procurement governance standards, is an essential skill for members of your public procurement team.

2. Project Governance

Project governance is the second essential skill for public procurement professionals. All too often, project teams are left to their own devices to drift away to suboptimal results. Procurement professionals need to know how to effectively integrate themselves into project teams early to help manage internal approvals, define roles and responsibilities, and develop and execute clear project plans.

3. Forms and Formats Knowledge

Knowledge and experience with a broad range of tendering formats is the third essential skill in public procurement. The days of getting through the cycle by cutting and pasting reused content into a single “one-size-fits-all” tendering template are long gone. Today’s procurement professionals need to be well versed in all formats. From the simplest Request for Quotation, to the fixed-bid Invitation to Tender, to Prequalification Frameworks and Negotiated Request for Proposals, procurement professionals need to be ready to put all tendering options on the table in support of the objectives of a project team.

4. Document Drafting

Document drafting is the fourth essential skill for a public procurement professional. Defining roles, managing workflow and creating readable documents within a multi-member project team is no easy task. In an industry where a misplaced comma can result in a protracted lawsuit, and rushed timeframes are standard operating procedure, razor sharp writing and editing abilities are a critical survival skill.

5. Bidding Risks Management

Understanding how to manage bidding risks is the fifth critical skill set for public procurement professionals. Due to transparency rules, a disproportionate number of government contracts are put to tender. This results in a massive volume of tendered contracts requiring clear scoping, material disclosures, and clear evaluation criteria and process rules. Since other members of a project team are typically not skilled in managing these issues, responsibility for advising on how to deal with these risks falls on members of your procurement team.

6. Contract Administration

Contract administration is the sixth critical skill for a public procurement professional. From defining post-award contract administration roles, to integrating scope management practices, to implementing contractor performance tracking systems, other members of the project team are typically counting on the procurement department to lead the way in establishing these procedures. This means that we need to be more than process champions – we also need to understand the details of the deal to assist in building proper contract management tools.

7. Proactive Strategies, Leadership and Innovation

Leadership is the seventh critical skill for a public procurement professional.  There are simply too may ways that things can go wrong during the procurement cycle to bank on reactive approaches. Succeeding in public procurement requires the adoption of proactive strategies. The implementation of those strategies calls for team members who can lead the way in actively promoting compliance across the organization, while tracking industry trends and championing the adoption of advanced practices, procedures and technologies.

Filling the Resource Gap

Building the seven essential skills should be basic training for any procurement team that is serious about meeting the challenges of the current public procurement system. Individuals who come to the table with these skills are more likely to rise through the ranks within institutions and across the industry. They are also more likely to gravitate to organizations that invest in and value these core competencies. Developing the seven essential skills therefore serves a clear growth strategy on both the individual and institutional level.