The project manager's role
Ideally the project manager will be appointed before any procurement is agreed. One of the aims of the procurement process is to establish the best and most appropriate contract for the product or service. The project manager therefore has a role here, which can include analyzing the concomitant risks to the project before committing to a seller. The output from such risk analysis could involve adding extra work or conditions to the draft contract before it is formally agreed. The project manager should not be working alone on this; if the organization has a procurement or contracts staff, or a legal or general counsel's department, he should be working hand-in-glove with the right person from that department. Ideally, for any but the smallest procurement needs, a contracts manager will be appointed to act on behalf of the project.
Once the procurement processes are underway, the activities and interactions required for the contract can generate their own momentum. The whole contractual procedure could take over and sideline the project manager, therefore a constant flow of communication between the contract manager and project manager should maintain the balance between the project requirements and the demands of procurement.
Consider whether it will be useful to state in the procurement contract how the project management requirements are to be met by including the frequency and attendance at meetings between the project team and the supplier. Stating in the procurement contract that the supplier will meet the project manager or their designate once a week on Mondays at 0900 from the start of the contract until final acceptance is an effective way to deal with the risk that the supplier may either try not to attend meetings regularly, or try to charge extra for attendance. That kind of detail is the sort of thing that your organization's procurement staff should be experienced in, and if so, use their expertise. Their expertise is also useful in determining what is an appropriate amount of time within the project schedule to allow for conducting procurement contract planning, selection, negotiation and administration. If short-cuts are taken with this process, the ramifications experienced later in the project could be far greater.
We have been saying, above, that as project manager you should delegate the details and day-to-day management of procurement to the appropriate staff in your organization, assuming that there are such people. They are usually very willing, and most belong to one of the professional bodies in that discipline, such as the Institute of Purchasing Managers. However, you must understand what their experience and competence is in broad terms. For example, if your project is procuring an IT database but your procurement department has no IT procurement expertise, and in fact has only ever dealt with suppliers of concrete aggregate and industrial adhesives, you will need to understand and manage the risks that arise from the gap in skills and experience. A less extreme example is if your procurement department has experience of procuring complete IT solutions but your project requires a team of programmers to be hired, then there is probably a skills and experience gap in your procurement department that may be just as critical as in the first example, but it is perhaps harder for you to spot. A checklist of questions to ask of your procurement specialists is:
The contract manager and not the project manager is responsible for contract negotiations at the day-to-day level. Whether the project manager should foster relationships with the provider depends on how important the provider is to the project and the time available. The project manager should also work with the contract manager to manage any changes to the contract, although it is usually only the contract manager who has the authority to incorporate changes within a contract, because usually they are responsible to the organization, and not the project manager, for procurement.
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