Strategic sourcing and cooperative procurement are key best practices, says Steve Gordon, former director of procurement in the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn., and Alexandria, Va. Gordon, has 40 years of public procurement and contract management experience and is currently managing member of Public Procurement Strategies consultants.

Gordon explains that both best practices can stretch tax revenue dollars and improve the quality and timeliness of governmental operations and service delivery.

It’s crucial, Gordon says, that public purchasers get top management to recognize the value and potential benefits of those best practices. More importantly, top agency management needs to give procurement pros the greenlights, approvals, access, resources and cover they will need to implement them.

Achieving policymaker and senior administrator buy-in on the benefits of procurement best practices will be the easier of the two tasks. Persuading top-level officials to provide the greenlights, resources, and cover will be more difficult, Gordon explains. The reason, Gordon says: “The senior officials, rightly or wrongly, may not have sufficient confidence in their procurement staffs to implement the best practices successfully.”

It’s up to agency chiefs to ensure procurement teams have essential skills and training. ““It is senior leadership's responsibility to ensure that their procurement staff members possess all of the needed competencies, skills, knowledge, values, and personality traits, so they [senior leadership] can convince themselves and persuade the clients/customers including the internally powerful ones of the efficiency of their entity's procurement function.” Senior leadership needs to be able to demonstrate that the staff of the central procurement operation can add strategic value, Gordon says. He believes the procurement function in most public entities could be contributing much more value than it is contributing now.

In 2018 it’s crucial that procurement directors be effective salespeople and leaders, Gordon says. “They must be able to understand and perform their role in the big picture, analyze and present data to a variety of audiences, communicate and work well with others inside and outside their entities and identify and solve problems on their own initiative.”

Gordon believes there needs to be more rigor in analyzing prospective cooperative contracts. That way, buyers are sure they made the best possible decision. “I’ve interviewed officials at large public procurement agencies, and in a lot of cases, they are doing their analyses with a lick and a promise,” Gordon says.

Gordon urges public procurement teams to develop skills to analyze prospective cooperative agreements. Graduate programs in the area are another potential source that could provide manpower to evaluate cooperative programs. A nearby MPA or MBA program could throw some of their students at those kinds of projects, Gordon believes. “As a graduate of those programs and having taught in those kinds of programs, I know that professors and students are always looking for those types of learning opportunities,” Gordon says.

What does Steve Gordon see in the future? “I prefer to think in terms of opportunities instead of challenges. However, challenges are a very real part of life in general and in any field of occupational endeavor.” His conclusion: “There will be many challenges for public procurement officials in what remains of 2018.”

Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact:



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