But Feuless is just as quick to point out that procurement can indeed play a useful role “when there is competitive bidding,” Feuless cites as a for instance. Anytime the purchase involves a commoditized product, from laptops to monitors to VOIP phones, and where a disciplined competitive bidding procedure will help assure that the organization’s needs are in fact met and that bids involve apples to apples comparisons, by all means bring in procurement, suggests Feuless.
Even when commodities are involved, however, IT needs to speak up about its concerns, stresses Dave Schoettmer, president of consulting firm Navigator Management Partners. For example: what is the cost of switching from Microsoft Word to the Google word processing application? How many hours will be involved in helping each employee make the switch? Real apple-to-apple comparisons factor in all the costs and, said Schoettmer. It’s up to IT to make very sure that procurement hears the whole story.
The bottomline is nobody expects a reduced role for procurement in IT. Not in the prevailing economic environment. And that raises a key question: how can IT learn to work better and smarter with the eyeshade wearers? Is win-win possible?
Greg Baker said it is—if IT “puts itself at the same table with procurement on a regular basis.” The standard IT complaint about procurement is that they are calculator-carrying penny-pinchers who are clueless about technology but the procurement gripe about IT is that it is populated with cowboy spenders who cannot align IT purchases with larger corporate objectives.
To some extent both sides are right but that, said Baker, is “because there is a failure to communicate. They come at the same problem from different perspectives. IT will up the odds of getting what it wants when it develops mutual trust and respect with procurement and that happens when there are regular meetings, particularly informal get-togethers. Help procurement understand what you are trying to achieve and why this matters and they will get on your side.”