Right Practice or Best Practice?

This week, P&CD and The Second Chair held a discussion about our latest report on the current climate within NSW council Procurement functions. There were a number of NSW councils present that have or are likely to be proclaimed. We looked at the drivers and processes behind amalgamations and how council procurement functions can capitalise on the procurement opportunities via the amalgamations.

Ultimately for councils, there is a need to bring about innovation to be able to sell a new procurement structure or a new way to procure to senior management. If the procurement managers do not get on the front foot and take the initiative, this could be a lost opportunity.

During the webinar, a topic of discussion that arose was about “Best Practice Procurement”. So what is best practice procurement?

From Wikipedia: Best practice is a method or technique that has been generally accepted as superior to any alternatives because it produces results that are superior to those achieved by other means or because it has become a standard way of doing things.

In my opinion, in a procurement context, best practice is an umbrella for procurement functions to stand under to sound strategic, that is the reality and what I have seen to date. And unfortunately there are organisations out there who offer bolt on solutions and expect government agencies across the board to conduct business in the same way. Me personally, I have not seen a “Best Practice” procurement function but, I have seen “Right Practice” for a select few organisations.

While there is nothing wrong with having good processes and a sound framework to start with, “Best Practice” information and processes should be used as a guide only. There is a huge risk in copying someone else’s practices because it worked for them or because we’re told that’s what “Best Practice” looks like. We run the risk of letting “Best Practice” replace logic and intuition, key aspects of any Procurement Strategy.

This takes me to a funny story where as a Procurement Manager within the Sydney Region, I was to review a tender document on behalf of another organisation as we were doing a joint procurement for engineering services. This other council was the lead procurement team with us providing high level assistance like document reviewing, evaluations etc. I was sold that this was the best tender document that they had put together, I thought to myself well this sounds promising. It came to the tender document review before it went to market and I found another councils name from another state and a number for “dial before you dog”, it was supposed to be “dial before you dig”. This is one example of an alleged “Best Practice” engineering tender document.

Best Practices are merely Default Practices, a starting point for the implementation of a process, in NSW councils case, a new procurement strategy. These processes, however, should not be used as an alternative to rational thought. I’m not saying throw Best Practice out the window. But I do encourage you to challenge it. Put your own spin on how you achieve your results and before adopting any new practice, be sure to ask your customers (internal & external) whether it will add any tangible value.

Ensure you turn “Best Practice” into your organisations “Right Practice”.

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