John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island.” He could have been talking about a project, too, because projects are not done in isolation. Most require obtaining other resources to get them done, be that through purchase or contract.
But most project management discussions focus on the process and knowledge groups, which are important, but insinuate the idea that a project manager and their team can do it all. That’s just not true. It’s crucial to know when you need help, and then get help.
That might sound like the start of a self-help book, but it’s not emotional but rather practical advice. Project procurement management is when you have both a process to fill the holes in your resources, and a way to manage that process with proper techniques and project management tools.
What Is Project Procurement Management?
Procurement, in terms of project management, is when you need to purchase, rent or contract with some external resource to meet your project goal. These relationships, like any process in the project, need management.
Managing these relationships means getting the best quality from the outside vendors employed by the company to assist in its doing business. There are constraints in a relationship with vendors that revolve around cost and time. Procurement management is a way to more efficiently and productively handle the process of sourcing, requisitioning, ordering, expediting, inspecting and reconciliating of procurement.
However, before making partnerships or purchases, the question of whether the goods and services are required from outside vendors must be answered. Therefore, weigh the pros and cons of producing the goods or services in-house and contracting the work out. Is the relationship with outsider companies necessary and cost-effective in the long-term? Once an informed decision has been made, only then can you move forward with confidence that the steps you’re taking are financially sound and fit within your timeframe.
Related: An Introduction to Vendor Management
Once you’re ready to procure goods from a vendor, project procurement management is broken down into four processes.
1. Plan Procurement Management
Procurements are first identified during the planning phase of the project. For every external contractor, there needs to be a statement of work to serve as a document outlining the work being contracted.
Prior to the contract, however, is a request for proposal in which multiple contractors get to bid on the job, and the project manager can determine from their bids who will get the contract.
These requests are well-thought out as they work as guiding documents through the project. The more specific they are, the better. This avoids confusion later and helps develop more accurate plans.
This process is collected in the procurement management plan, which includes requirement documents, risk register, activity resource requirements, project schedule, activity cost estimates and more.
To guide these decisions there are tools and techniques, such as make-or-buy analysis, which helps to determine if the activity needs an external supplier or can be done in-house. Seeking help from experts, doing market research and meeting with stakeholders also helps guide this decision.
2. Conduct Procurements
After finishing the paperwork of the first phase, the conduct procurement phase is when you study the bids that come back and determine which one to accept. Before deciding, however, there should be a criterion in place to decide which bid is best for the project and fits your logistics management. The agreements are then signed, and the project management plan is updated.
Decide the winner by conferencing with the bidders, having techniques for evaluating the proposals and having independent estimates to make sure the bids are within the range of normal. It doesn’t hurt to seek the advice of experts in the areas your contracting to get their perspective.
There are also analytical techniques you can apply. Advertising is a good way to make sure you’re casting the widest net possible, so you can decide based on all potential bidders. Then there are procurement negotiations that will be needed to tweak the final contracts to meet your needs and the contractor’s.
3. Control Procurements
Once the contracts are signed, the management of those contractors must be folded into the overall management responsibilities. Contractors can have negative impact on budgets and schedules, which can lead to a project going off-track or worse.
Therefore, regular status updates are necessary to review contractor agreements, get progress updates and review work performance to make sure that the contractors are meeting the requirements outlined in their contracts. Though you hire contractors because they’re experts in what they do, you still need to monitor and track their work to make sure it’s proceeding as planned.
It’s best to contract a change control system and have regular procurement performance reviews, including inspections and audits to make sure the work is going right. Performance reporting helps keep managers informed, too. A payment system needs to be in place as well as a claims administration and a records management system.
4. Close Procurements
Just as there is a process to start the procurement, there needs one in place to finalize it. What constitutes completed work should be detailed in the initial agreement with the contractor, so there is no confusion of either’s part as to when the work is done.
Insurance and bonding also will usually require a formal release of liability. This makes sure that there are no outstanding changes related to the value and completion date of the contract.
Procurement audits help with this process, as well as having structured procurement negotiations. A records management system will also be needed to manage all the paperwork that will be involved with this stage of the procurement process.
What Is the Project Manager’s Role in Procurement?
The project manager is involved with procurement, same as any other aspect they control in the project management process. However, this is a process they might not own with the same authority as other parts of the project.
While the project manager does have the authority to make agreements with contractors on behalf of the company, the project manager is often not the person who administers that contract once in place. Regardless, it’s important that the project manager is in the loop.
That means knowing the six processes with the project procurement management knowledge areas as outlined in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The first being the plan purchases and acquisitions, meaning determining what external resources are needed for the project. The project manager will have control over this, as they are more knowledgeable about overall project needs.
Plan contracting is the creating of requirements for whatever products or services are needed, including what companies offer these products or services. Then request seller responses by narrowing down the companies to a handful, and then selecting the sellers, which is usually the purvey of the purchasing department.
Contract administration is the management of the contract with the vendor. The project manager will work daily with the vendor’s account manager. When the contract is fulfilled, there is contract closure. This is usually handled again by the purchasing department.
How Software Can Help with Procurement
Like any part of a project, having the right tools can make project management procurement more effective. Take for example, an online Gantt chart.
Gantt charts are great scheduling tools. Most project management software allows you to upload a spreadsheet or task list, which is then populated as points on a timeline. You add the duration for each task and link any that are dependent.
Just as you would plan a project, you can plan the contract of your procurements, noting when they start and when they’re planned to end. If the software is online, then status updates are instantly reflected on the Gantt chart and you can track the progress of your contractors to make sure the project remains on schedule.
The Gantt chart can also help with scheduling materials if they need to come onboard at a certain time in the project.
There is also cost management for the contracted work that can be tracked on the software. And some project management tools come with a dashboard, which crunches data and deliveries it in easy-to-read graphs and charts to see if the project is on track. Again, if that software is online, you get real-time data to your dashboard for a more accurate read of the management of your project procurement.
ProjectManager.com is an online project management software that has online Gantt charts to help with scheduling and a real-time dashboard that gives you an up-to-date picture of the project’s progress. Managing project procurement has never been simpler. Try if for yourself by taking a free 30-day trial.