2022.09.15: Procurement as a Service

Original article published on Linkedin by Dustin Lanier, CPPO

(This article was also recorded as a podcast, give a listen here!)

I spoke at the 2022 International City and County Managers Association Annual Conference in Columbus, OH about “Procurement as a Service – Stories From the Field.”

So, what is that?


I covered why procurement should be a priority for City and County managers, what is Procurement as a Service, and who needs Procurement as a Service in four profiles.

First - why should procurement be a priority?

At the Government Financial Officers Association, I was asked several questions that I turned into an article called Procurement as the Focal Point. I made the case that procurement is not something that can simply be covered by Finance or Legal - that it's its own professionalized function that sits within the nexus of those groups. 

Strategic procurement brings a variety of skillsets - supply chain skillsets, spend analysis skillsets, risk management skillsets, contract creation skillsets, system design skillsets.

That vision is hampered by the staffing challenges that we all continue to see - so I'm also going to talk about why procurement is hard to staff and maintain, and what we're seeing from some organizations we're working with today.

Procurement as a Service ("PaaS") is defined as setting up functions that extend and enable the procurement shop. 

If the procurement shop has needs in baseline operations, we have been helping them to execute some of the logistical work so that it gets back on track:

  • Clearing backlogs
  • Bringing specialized expertise to specific activities
  • Providing access to people with an extended skillset
  • Get back on an overall even-keel

Procurement as a Service also solves those special projects for the procurement shop that seems to never get done:

  • Procurement manuals
  • Contract management processes
  • Grant management processes
  • Process improvements
  • Training programs
  •  Automation success

The central part of this presentation is the four profiles of local governments that I see as needing help in Procurement as a Service, described as:

  • The One Man Band
  • The Invisible Man
  • The Vase Curator, and
  • The Surge Protector

The One-Man-Band

There's no procurement function because the shop is otherwise so constrained that the CFO or Administrative Officer wears multiple hats-  and procurement is one of many things that that person is responsible for - and there is no bandwidth.

The Invisible Man

The shop is large enough to have a procurement function, but either they've chosen to not staff it, or what they're calling procurement is an after-the-fact validation exercise that is tying up loose ends. But it's not applying any of the core principles upfront, and therefore procurement is wildly decentralized among the departments.

The Vase Curator

Picture a museum docent who's trying to keep a bunch of vases upright on pedestals despite a bunch of people walking by. That's representative of a shop that may be generally stable, but if one or two of those people leave, a ton of knowledge goes out the door with them, and then the shop is basically back at zero.

The Surge Protector

A shop that is overall well-staffed and can withstand the change of one or two people. But the amount of work that is coming through procurement given the federal money and some of the other reporting processes has created a huge wave that is coming towards that shop. To absorb that surge, they need a way to deal with it.

Which profile fits your procurement shop?