Lee Parkin, Commercial Lead, shares insight into the Agile Procurement model.
Agile Procurement is a phrase that is being bandied about at the moment, but what is it and why is it needed?
Customers are really good at giving you a high-level statement of requirements or Problem Statement of why they need something, they are less good at specifying what they need. Getting to the bottom of this using traditional procurement models can take a long time. A great question to ask early on in the process is; “What do you want to buy?”
Picture the traditional scenario, a generic set of requirements for something you think you need is issued to the market, almost certainly every vendor will tell you they will achieve the desired outcome, and so onto the next stage of the process, drilling into the solutions and assessing the suppliers capability. We can be several weeks or months into the process before we get down to the detail and demos. By this point the proposed outcome from each vendor can be very different and therefore hard to evaluate on a like-for-like basis.
I’ve frequently thought there must be a more efficient way of extracting the thinking from their heads. Enter Agile Procurement. Drawing on Agile methodology, which embraces flexibility, collaboration and continuous improvement, an Agile approach to procurement can deliver faster outcomes, without compromising on quality.
The key with Agile Procurement is bringing that thinking further forward in the RFP process, focusing on collaboration and generating a sense of partnership early on. You start with the Hypothesis and a set of high-level functional requirements.
Briefing all of the potential Suppliers collectively in advance ensures consistency of messaging, encourages openness and dramatically reduces time spent, short-cutting traditional back and forth by email.
You will then embark on a series of workshops to address the problem statement:
Use technology, record the sessions and make these available to each of the vendors (also allows for stakeholders to refresh thinking), and use collective whiteboarding to evolve thinking.
This can only be fostered through close working ties with the stakeholder community and the potential partners. Use the word partners deliberately as you are using the exercise to not only understand the Product/Service but also to assess:
- Does the Supplier understand my requirements?
- Does the Supplier truly understand the journey I am on?
- Can I work with them, an appreciation of the culture of our business is as important as the technology.
- What’s unique about this solution to differentiate from the other providers?
And, key to Agile methodology, iterate the requirements after each major set of workshops.
If you think the Agile Procurement model could benefit your organization please feel free to get in touch. Our Commercial team provide flexible, comprehensive procurement expertise, including cost optimization services, supplier management support and specialist commercial contract analysis.