Zombie Procurement Strategy

zombie procurementThe last few weeks I have been advising a Federal Procurement team as they refine a Procurement Statement of Work (SOW).  Unfortunately, I see the existing version as being very heavy and I want the final product to be much more lean.  A perfect example is the current program has 29 documents that are contractually required to be delivered.   Do these documents provide value?  No, most of them to not.

Opportunity 1

Instead of writing the SOW with statements like "Contract holder will deliver this document" and not provide why or how it will help the customer accomplish their goals, I think we miss an opportunity.  I believe we need to advance the conversation with the potential vendors, by structuring the future work as Epics.  As long as the customer quantifies "reasonable", we give the potential vendors an opportunity to think outside the box.

As the owner of the production system, I want to be able to know the average wait time when a customer calls, so I can ensure they are receiving a reasonable level of customer service.

Opportunity 2

Rather than using practical wisdom to create a new SOW, some would rather rely on past policy, procedures, and governance, regardless of current and future needs or if they ever made sense.  I've challenged some by saying there are no procurement requirements stating that we must have these 29 documents.  One Zombie response was  "I found management plans and documents referred to in the PMBOK.  We should require the vendor to deliver all of them ".

Before I emptied a full can of Zombie Away on him, I said that wasn't the most efficient approach.  The PMBOK also says to use "expert judgement".  If you are not prepared to use expert judgement, a vendor is going to take your Zombie money and walk off with it.  All you'll be left with is an empty wallet and 29 documents.

I'm all for looking to the PMBOK for guidance.  But remember, it is a guide, not commandments.

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Procurement Zombies

I just finished reviewing a 42 page Statement of Work (SOW), which at some point will become the basis of dozens of (if not more) proposals, which will result in the award of a contract.  If there was ever a time I would want to guard myself against zombie infiltration, the procurement cycle would be it.  But at some point, zombies will get involved. In an attempt to be thorough (yet entertaining and brief) let's focus on the Project Procurement Management processes: Planning, Conducting, Administering, and Closing.


The process of documenting project purchasing decisions, specifying the approach, and identifying potential sellers.


The process of obtaining seller responses, selecting a seller, and awarding a contract


The process of managing procurement relationships, monitoring contract performance, and making changes or corrections as needed.


The process of completing each project procurement.

I pulled these from Chapter 12, Page 313 of the PMBOK Guide 4th Edition

For the sake of brevity,  I am not going to tell you the right or wrong way to manage procurements.  I'm not a procurement specialist.  So instead, since it's Festivus, I'm going to air grievances.

Procurements involve currency.  That means that if it is your money being spent, you want to get as much value for your money as possible.  It also means that if it is not your money being spent, zombies seem to be drawn to procurements more than brains.  Don't ask me to provide a metric for this.  Just trust me.

In 15 years, I can not say I've witnessed any zombie activity at the planning stage.  Then again, I've never seen a unicorn either but I'm not saying they don't exist.  Perhaps the zombies defer to the humans at this early stage.   But the further along in the process, the more zombies seem to appear.  If you really want to see a zombie swarm, add a purchasing card into the mix.  Somehow, purchasing card usage can actually accelerate human-zombies transformations.

Opportunistic Procurement Zombie

Let's say a zombie needs a new computer because its current one died.  I know, ironic.  The undead having something die.  Anyway, it gets on the phone with someone willing to sell a new shiny computer.  If the boss fails to establish a budget or specific specifications for the replacement device, there's a pretty good chance the zombie is going to order much more than really needed.  Good planning in this case, can cut down on zombie purchasing.

Entitled Procurement Zombie

Back in the day, working as a hardware consultant for a few federal programs, I witnessed a strange sense of entitlement. When it comes to zombie to human ratios, I've seen way more zombies on September 30th of each year than on any Halloween.   These zombies, to ensure their program budgets will be equal or greater than the year before, go on a wild spending spree every September 30th (end of the fiscal year).  I knew a colleague who worked for a zombie on a federal program.  He was given a purchase card and instructed to contact Dell and order as many laptops as possible until he had spent "X" dollars.  He was they instructed to ask them to not ship the laptops because the program had no need for them and nowhere to store them.

If you enjoyed the post great!  If not, I will challenge you to a feat of strength.

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