Tools of the Profession

Steve Isaac
13 July 2018

This article was originally published by Mike Thornton, Purchasing Manager for the City of Leesburg, Florida, on June 20, 2018. View the original post  here . FYI: As of Spring 2021, Negometrix is now Mercell

Professional chefs place incredible value in having a quality set of knives that are their own. It is a requirement.

A mechanics life blood are their tools. They rely on their tools for their livelihood, recognizing quality tools and the right tools are essential. Having the right tool can save them significant time yielding more money in their pocket.

I consider myself a professional Do-It-Yourselfer. I haven’t found much I can’t do, or at least try. I don’t like to pay others to do what I can do. My son and I built his first car! While I cannot afford all the tools I would like to have; I do know that when I do buy a tool I buy quality. I have purchased quality power tools over 20 years ago that are still running strong. A quality chisel will hold an edge longer than a cheap chisel.

It is my opinion that most public procurement organizations are not afforded this type of thinking in choosing the tools used to perform their work. Procurement is the ‘MacGyver’ of organizations; making due with what we have. This quote probably best describes Public Procurement Professionals and how we get our work done, determined and hard working.

“A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop.” – Robert Hughes

I believe members of our profession are very determined and accomplish great things with our rusty monkey wrench. How much greater would we be with the same determination and quality tools suited for the purpose?

If there is one thing that demonstrates professionalism it is having the right tools for the right job. We want what we do to be recognized as a profession. Most probably do not have the tools that represent professionalism. Attorneys have their on-line law library and Lexis Nexis. Access to legal information that non-attorneys cannot access. Medical doctors have access to scientific medical resources and publications. Patients use WebMD.

Procurement professionals, for the most part, use MS Excel, MS Word, Adobe Pro DC and other consumer software. The same tools used by our clients. It doesn’t really scream professional using the same tools as our clients. Using the same tools at work that we all have at home to print invitations and maintain the household chore list. While this tools are necessary they should not be the only ones in our tool box.

“The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.” –Benjamin Franklin

In a recent survey I conducted, 70% of responding agencies that have an e-procurement system pay nothing for it. While there are good systems out there I do not think the free ones are the ‘best’ systems. A free system means the vendor is getting their revenue from the supplier side. Their resources may be dedicated to making the supplier side of the product better or selling value added services to the suppliers. How much better could their system be if they charged agencies? More resources could mean more features for the agencies.

As for suppliers, my survey indicates they are on board with new technology in conducting business with public agencies. We should not use suppliers as the excuse for not getting good tools. Instead of allowing suppliers to hold us back we should be pulling them up.

Our profession saves our organizations hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars each year with our determination and hard work. I don’t think it is out of line to request funding equaling a very, very small percentage of that amount for some real tools. Tools that would help us save our organization even more.

It is time that each of us begin requesting funding for real tools that will provide real efficiency. Efficiency for our section, the organization and our suppliers. Not only does it make us work better but it also makes us feel better, more professional. It can get very tiring “getting by and making things work”. Being MacGyver every day can be tiring.

“You cannot mandate productivity, you must provide the tools to let people become their best.” -Steve Jobs

Writer Jeff Duntemann stated, “A good tool improves the way you work. A great tool improves the way you think.” This quote represents how having an advanced e-procurement system will cause you to rethink public procurement, your workflow and how you process your solicitations. Too often we take our same old paper process and move it into a computer. Implementing technology is an opportunity to rethink how we do business.

My office is in the process of implementing a new e-procurement system that is a great tool. We are having to rethink not only our workflows and processes but also our view of public procurement. What should the new public procurement look like? Where do we want this new tool to take us? It is allowing us to be true craftspeople within our profession.

The time has come for a transformation in the way public procurement does business. The tools are available to implement technology into everything we do. We need to toss aside the notion of, “this is how we do business” and start asking, “How can we do business?” We need to be the driving force within our organization to set the process and not leave it to those that ‘think’ they know our profession. Newsflash . . . accepting paper solicitation responses is NOT a global best practice! The globe is much larger than the United States.

It is time to trade-up from the rusty monkey wrench. So start looking around and planning the purchase of that next quality tool.

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