A Cry for Help


My friend John who I met some weeks ago over coffee at Zorro’s has been practising his Comping skills to good effect and feeling much more confident when negotiating. However, he recently contacted me and seemed rather perturbed. On questioning him further, I soon got to the bottom of the challenge he was faced with.

John is a competent procurement professional who has good experience in end-to-end contracts. John continued to talk. I could tell from his quivering voice he was beginning to panic with the latest task he had been asked to undertake at work.

John had been asked to go out to a tender. Under normal circumstances John said this would not have been a problem after all, he had been in the game long enough. John continued with his cry for help.

John went on, “In all my years of experience, I have always been provided with a Scope of Works (SOW) or Scope of Requirements (SOR) document to use in conjunction with other documents when going out to Market. Only this time around things are different. I have been given a blank sheet of paper and there is a big expectation that somehow I will be able to come up with this SOW.”

John continued, “People seem to think I am the virtuoso here. I just work in Procurement. What do I do now?”

I asked John, “How had the previous Scopes of Work that he had come across either from Engineering or Operations been prepared.”

“I don’t understand you “replied John.

I continued to probe, “Well, was the SOW very prescriptive and in minute detail? Did the document describe to the Vendor what to do and how do it?”

John thought about this for a while.

“I would say so,” was his reply.

“So in your opinion John, did the prescriptive SOW provide the outcome that you were looking for in the Tender?”

I was keen to provide John with a way out on this. I wanted him to think in a different manner. I wanted John to prepare a SOW, which was functional, or performance based.

I asked John, “So John, would you have sufficient information to hand which describes the outcomes you are looking for? Do you know the KPIs that you want your Vendors to work to? What kind of SLAs are your stakeholders looking for?”

I could see John’s reaction change to a much more positive one for the first time.

I continued with my line of reasoning. We are all guilty sometimes in Procurement of following the same prescriptive path and making life much harder for ourselves. Why build in risk by telling the OEM to carry out tasks in a particular manner? Instead, why not focus on the outcomes. Should we not be more concerned with whether the Vendor can deliver on the KPIs and SLAs rather than telling them how to go about doing this?

In summary John, being in Procurement and asked to write a spec is an opportunity to make a name for yourself. Ask yourself the following questions:

· Are you up against time constraints?

· Are there limited in house resources to write a spec?

· Are you trying to mitigate risk?

· You don’t want to be prescriptive in your approach?

· Do you want the Vendors to come up with innovative solutions?

· Do you want the spec to be performance based?

· Are you looking for OEM expertise?

If the answers to the above are positive, focus on the outcomes and write a performance based spec.

Invigorated and armed with additional information, John set about completing his task at work and reported back that he had indeed been able to get the sign off he was looking for.


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