Five Ways to Ensure Early Engagement in Procurement Projects

Do your stakeholders ask for your involvement in a project too late for you to make a difference? Perhaps when the selection has already been made and they just need help with a contract? 

Within the profession it is widely understood that early procurement involvement equals a better outcome, and a Spend Matters study in 2015 suggested that this could be as much as 2% additional savings on average. 

Clearly, getting the balance right is vital as putting too much effort into projects prior to business case approval can waste your valuable time if the project does not come to fruition.

Especially at the moment, whilst teams are separated, regular stakeholder touchpoints can fall by the wayside and out of sight is out of mind. So how can we help our organisations help us? Here are five ways you can improve the stage of engagement.

1. Profile your Stakeholders

Identify the stakeholders who typically interact with procurement or may do so.  Prioritise them using the Power / Interest grid – mapping each stakeholder onto the grid:

You can then determine which touchpoints you need to be keeping with each category of stakeholder – assigning stakeholders to the most appropriate team member for closer management and communication.  In remote situations it is important to schedule time to check in – even if it’s 15 mins every other month for a ‘Keep Informed’ stakeholder.  In these sessions you can agree on the best ways of working together.

2. Demonstrate Results 

How can early engagement benefit your colleague?  Good stories of how early engagement helped the process and examples of where late engagement caused issues for the business is a good way to bring people on side.  Everyone wants to do the right thing for their organisation, and late engagement can sometimes be driven by negative previous experiences of procurement in other organisations.

Here are some steps you can take to refine the message:

  • Focus on the results and an overview of the research
  • Make sure you quantify results where possible
  • Try to use engaging visuals rather than just pages of bullets
  • Include recommendations and action items
  • Make the presentation concise, but informative and conversational 
  • Try to send a pre-read to stakeholders, one day before, so they can prep some meaningful questions
  • Last, but certainly not least, bring positive energy to the table

3. Invest in Relationships

Effective teamwork is vital for good procurement. Working together towards a common goal is also an enjoyable way of working – some of the best projects I have worked on were the ones with a really close team.

Here are some tips and ideas that you can implement in order to build relationship with your stakeholder:

  • Find out what personality type each stakeholder belongs to using an Insights tool or similar. How do you do that? Through conversation and observing how they like to work.
  • Hold regular meetings to discuss progress, blockers and next steps – this one is controversial nowadays, because everyone’s goal is to cut meeting time, but rarely can anything replace a quality face-to-face or virtual meeting time for decision making. 
  • Give and receive feedback. This is essential, without knowing what to improve and what’s going well, we can’t adjust and progress. Therefore, in a respectful manner, make sure your stakeholders know when they are pushing too hard and when they are providing you with information you need in a perfect manner.  
  • Engage in fun team-building activities, and invite your stakeholders. 

A study done on project management by workamajig.com pointed out that poor relationships are the cause for 29% of project failure, sharing 5th place on the list, among other 3 causes that can all go under “poor relationship and communication category”. Other reasons for project failure include:

  • Change in project objectives (37%) 
  • Inaccurate requirements gathering (35%) 
  • Inadequate vision (29%) 
  • Poor communication (29%)
  • Poorly defined opportunities and risks (29%)

4. Co-locate 

This one is a bit tricky currently, however working together in the same physical environment can make a real difference to project collaboration and to regular ad hoc meetings with stakeholders – passing in the corridor, coffee machine or water cooler conversations. 

Since working together every day is not possible, and not necessary, there needs to be a way to recreate this virtually and then return to a face-to-face approach when possible.  Think about co-working spaces or business lounges until the office is back up and running.

5. Use a Common System

By capturing pipeline projects through your PPM (Procurement Performance Management) system you can prioritise and engage at the right point for the maximum return.  PPM solutions like Acada’s Projectview allow pipeline projects to be documented with the amount of data you have to hand at that point. Activity can be assigned to the right procurement lead and system access can even be given to your stakeholders for full transparency.

Conclusion

In order to get the best results for our organisations we need to work with our stakeholder to ensure procurement engagement from an early stage.  As this is more challenging in the current work environment we need to be smart and maintain regular checkpoints.

By taking steps to proactively improve the stage of engagement we can build better relationships, improve project outcomes and deliver more for our businesses.

If you would like help implementing a PPM system then please get in touch using the Contact link.

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