There are dozens of companies offering consulting or software that promises to help you “save big” on your procurement efforts. While a handful of these consulting firms and tech companies offer valuable services and technology, they can be costly, to say the least. And the rest of them are quite frankly a scam, or waste of time and money. If you’re at a small company or a large company that doesn’t invest in procurement, chances are you may not be able to afford these solutions and services. So what can a procurement professional do to get a leg up and save money for his or her company, while not spending ridiculous amounts of money?
Two words: “Look Within.” No, we don’t mean in the squishy, metaphoric, yoga-doing, meditation-obsessed kinda way. What we mean is that you should be leveraging your coworkers and internal teams in order to help you (1) Figure out what you should be buying (just ask!) and; (2) Chances are, someone on your team probably has information on the pricing scheme of a certain technology/solution you’re interested in procuring.
Your first issue to address is figuring out what you should be procuring for your team. This can be tricky, especially if you don’t fully understand the technical and business needs of your team, which is even more reason to leverage them (i.e. talk to them or observe them)! As a procurement professional, you need to be as much strategic in your day-to-day activities as you are tactical. Planning ahead and understanding how the tools you procure will affect and influence each and every employee at your company will make you more effective and valuable. In order to be more strategic, you need to connect with your customer. Unlike your company’s customer, your customer, as a procurement professional, are the employees of the firm. You serve them. So, in order to deliver the best tools and solutions to them, you need to understand their problems, wants and needs first. The best way to do that is by talking to them. Stop reading articles or theorizing about what they need – the answer may be sitting right next to you.
Now let’s address the second issue: figuring out pricing and price comparison for a specific solution or tool you plan to procure. There simply aren’t enough (if any) good price comparison tools for procurement professionals, at least when it comes to software solutions. So what is one to do in collecting pricing data before making a purchase to ensure you’re not overpaying for a technology? You can’t ask the vendor out right. Google isn’t helpful. So what do you do? The answer is again, look within. Chances are, someone at your company has either used or even procured the technology you’re looking at (especially if the solution was proposed by an employee). So why not go to the departments or individuals within your organization and ask for pricing data on software solutions they’ve procured? Even if they don’t know the exact technology, pricing for comparative products will suffice (and may be even more advantageous to have when you’re trying to negotiate a price down).
The bottom line is: don’t underestimate your internal teams and departments as valuable sources of data and information. Underutilizing them is a wasted opportunity and leads to money loss and wasted efforts. So go forth, take a stroll around the office, send an email and make your own company your secret weapon for procurement.