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Chartered Project Professional – Elective Competence 18: Procurement

John Bolton John Bolton

Published: 10th June 2020

ChPP candidates must be able to demonstrate experience that satisfies the specific Professional Practice assessment criteria. They will also at interview need to demonstrate their advanced Technical Knowledge and understanding against the stated Technical Knowledge assessment criteria. This could include Elective Competence 18 : Procurement.

Aspiring Chartered Project Professionals who do not already hold a recognised assessment for professional practice must be able to show that their experience satisfies the specific Professional Practice Assessment Criteria with a written submission. As part of this they will also need to show competence in twelve competence areas. Ten of these are mandatory and two are selected from a selection of 15 Elective Competencies. The one we are looking at here is Procurement.

Introduction to the Procurement competence

From the APM Competence procurement is:

“The ability to secure the provision of resources needed for change initiative(s) from internal and/or external providers. Procurement is the process by which products and services are acquired from internal and/or external providers to support the change initiative.”

As mentioned before the term ‘change initiative’ can cause confusion. This was a phrase introduced back in BoK 6 where it was used to describe collectively Projects, Programmes and Portfolios. The nature of these is that they introduce change, why do a project, programme or portfolio if not to change something?  As far as ChPP is concerned everything is a project, so don’t get confused with change initiative and change management or change control (common mistake).

What needs to be demonstrated for ChPP?

The APM have helpfully split this important subject into a set of key criteria that must be demonstrated. And these are as follows, not forgetting that you only need to demonstrate four of them: –

PP1.1 establish the type, quality and quantity of the resource requirement

Resources are ‘All the labour and non-labour items required to undertake the scope of work to the required quality’ (APM Body of Knowledge 7th Edition). Note Labour (i.e. people) and non-labour (i.e. things like cement, office space, pencils, etc). Before acquiring any resources be it internal (e.g. IT services for your project office) or externally (the contractor to build the bridge) you will need to be quite specific about what it is you are after. This is normally portrayed in some form of specification and can be a very large part of the eventual contract itself. The criteria askes for you to be specific about the quality, quantity and type of resource and so in your submission you will need to be clear tht you have addressed each of these requirements. A type of resource might be Labour, materials, fuel, etc. Quantity is quite easy; I need 5000 liters of petrol. The quality is a bit more trick as here you will be providing either a subjective or objective measure. As far as fuel is concerned you might specify that it complies with a given ISO standard or octane rating. For something lees well described, you may need to rely on a qualitative measure such as ‘easy to use’ or ‘aesthetically pleasing’. You will need to show how you ESTABLISHED these requirements and that is a bit different from just saying I went to tender. It will be necessary to show how YOU developed an understanding of what the requirements are (were), through estimating, workshops, design, research, and so on. The act of arriving at the requirements is core here not what they are.

PP1.2 develop detailed specifications for the procurement of resources for a project

As above. A detailed specification will be the repository for the outcome of the content mentioned above. These two criteria would seem to dovetail together quite nicely allowing an economy of effort and words to describe them both. The specification can take many forms, perhaps a product description, a written document, a prototype, an image, and so on. Specifications can also be activity based (i.e. you tell them what you want them to do (build a wall) or output based (i..e the wall) where you leave the activity to the provider of the services. There is a huge amount to be written about how specifications are presented, suffice to say that if you have got this far you ought to have some experience of them and you will need to portray how YOU developed them.

PP1.3 evaluate technical and commercial options for fulfilling the requirements

This is a bit tricky and I have seen a few people trip up with this one. The criteria wants you to demonstrate how you EVALUATED technical and commercial options… Technical options might be “I want a way of getting safely across a river”. The technical options are a) build a bridge, b) build a tunnel, c) build a teleportation device, d) swim, etc. The evaluation of the technical options would require you to show how you sifted them and against what measures. The commercial options really come down to things like fixed price, time and materials, lump sum, singe source, framework, etc. This is a lot to show in one criteria as they are essentially two very different things.

PP1.4 agree a procurement plan with relevant stakeholders

The term ‘Procurement Plan’ is not something that appears anywhere in the Body of Knowledge (surprise, surprise). I recommend you take it to mean the way in which you intend to procure goods and services and as such it is akin to a procurement strategy ‘The high level approach for securing the goods and services from external suppliers to satisfy project, programme and portfolio needs’ (APM Body of Knowledge 7th Edition). These contain many component parts such as payment terms, contract types, tendering rules, etc. If you use this, you won’t go far wrong. Make sure you mention that YOU created a procurement plan in your submission though – just to make sure they see it clearly.

PP2.1 negotiate and secure internal resources to effectively deliver a project

So here you need to show how YOU went about negotiating for goods and services, but please note it is restricted to INTERNAL resources. These could include the IT services for the project office from your IT department, the occupation of a project office, or internal staff resources where you had to go and grab people form other parts of the business to staff your project. ‘The effectively deliver a project part’, well, the obvious comment is why would you want resources other than to deliver a project and given that you have them why would you do it ineffectively? I’ll leave that with you.  

PP2.2 comply with organisational procedures when selecting and negotiating with suppliers based on a rigorous tendering process

This is silent on the topic of internal vs. external, and so I am assuming that wither would be appropriate, but I think it might be wise to think about external resources for this criterion. What are the organisational procedures for going to tender and negotiating protocols. Most organisations have these and most are very careful to make sure that transparency, fairness, and value for money are at the forefront of everyone’s approach. These are normally described as par to of the organisations governance procedures and as such described outside of the project for ALL projects to follow uniformly to ensure consistency. Getting three bids, checking references, etc. would all qualify as examples.

PP2.3 agrees viable contracts and statements of work in line with organisational requirements

Agreement to a large high value contract is rarely done by a project manager. I am about to be bombarded by loads of project manager who do just that, but I am going to stick to my guns. Contracting is fairly common (buying a newspaper for example) but when a lot of money and risk is involved, it becomes a fairly profound activity. It says AND statements of work, and so it would appear that you will need to show how YOU did so. It could be argued that contracts are external and SOW’s are internal, and ones you agree with your team. This might help provide a bit more breadth to the options for evidence of this.  

What does a good submission look like?

I held a number of workshops and worked closely with my estimating team to create a list of specific project requirements, some external (for example my team needed laptops) and some internal (I needed office space to house them in) which was to be found from the existing company estate. The laptops needed to be very powerful to run the modelling software and the office had to be secure. I worked with the organisations procurement team to draft detailed specifications and worked with them to follow the organisations procedures for tendering laid down in the company procurement strategy. I encapsulated these activities in my Procurement Plan which was a more tactical document to help guide the specific procurement activities for my project. Once I had this in place I went to my sponsor, client and other stakeholders to obtain their agreement to publish it as part of my PMP and use it to monitor the process. The tendering process for the laptops included issuing a brief, the specification and guidelines about responses, and I also made sure our assessment criteria were clear. This was not a large procurement and there was a lot of delegated responsibility allowed me to undertake the detailed negotiations, which I did. I decided to buy them outright rather than lease them as the project was slated for two years and the cost was less over this time. I agreed this approach with the stakeholders and negotiated a further 11% volume discount through hard negotiating.

249 words – WARNING – I am not suggesting that this would be successful, I am not the assessor who will be assessing it, but I wouldn’t mind betting it has a strong chance of being suitable.

Please remember – What YOU did, lots of I, me, and my.

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