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“Procurement improvement is a journey that is never-ending,” says Robert Lohfeld, CEO of Lohfeld Consulting Group and head of the APMP Procurement Improvement Committee (PIC). Making that journey the very best it can be is at the heart of an ongoing effort by the committee made up of a volunteer group of APMP members, who champion better communication between industry and government at every step of the RFP-to-proposal life cycle. The idea to launch a committee was borne last December out of a conversation between Lohfeld and APMP Executive Director Rick Harris about the ongoing debate on procurement reform. “We felt someone needed to stand up and tell the world that the Federal Acquisition Regulations are fine: what is broken is how they are being interpreted and used,” Lohfeld says. “It was a challenge I couldn’t pass up.”
“We felt someone needed to stand up and tell the world that the Federal Acquisition Regulations are fine: what is broken is how they are being interpreted and used.”
—Robert Lohfeld, CEO, Lohfeld Consulting Group
The establishment of the PIC was the result of members seeing a range of procurements, some well executed and others that weren’t. There was a desire among APMP members to have an effective, efficient, and consistent procurement process. While the existing Federal Acquisition Regulations are acceptable guidelines, inconsistent interpretation and application of those regulations tend to create problems. APMP established the PIC and sought feedback from government and industry professionals to address the concerns regarding the current procurement process.
The PIC is made up of five subcommittees and headed by a chairman, the position Lohfeld currently holds. The five subcommittees are responsible for the following:
- Understanding the problem.
- Developing the position.
- Starting the dialogue.
- Reporting the results.
- Participating in an annual procurement improvement conference.
While each subcommittee has its own set of responsibilities, Lohfeld explains, they work as a unit toward common goals: “to propose actionable recommendations to increase standardization, reduce cycle time, decrease costs, and have fewer protests.” Improvement efforts have been ongoing for quite some time, even before the establishment of the PIC; Lohfeld expresses that there is not a definitive end to the improvement process. The purpose of the PIC is to streamline those conversations and help bring to the forefront the policies and procedures that are most successful. “What we must do,” Lohfeld says, “is continually strive to educate all participants in those practices that produce outstanding results.”
To bridge the gap between industry professionals and government agencies, the PIC just published the results of a survey of more than 500 industry and government personnel. That data provided the specific procurement areas that need improvement. Also in development for release in November is a best practices guide for competitive government procurements. Lohfeld is hopeful that these reports will be distributed in government procurement circles as well as industry circles, as the information derived from these reports is beneficial to the procurement processes in both sectors.
“Our most pressing issue is getting the message out to people in government procurement that we have excellent information on how to improve procurements and that we want to open up a dialogue with government agencies to collaborate on procurement improvement,” Lohfeld explains.
There are many potential hurdles when undertaking a project as complex as procurement process redevelopment, but Lohfeld is excited about the progress that has been made, and he is quick to say it is because of the commitment of the committee’s leaders. “Without these dedicated individuals, we could not have accomplished all that we did,” he says. The involvement on the government end has been positive as well, with the committee experiencing no pushback and being welcomed by government procurement personnel who are equally as passionate about the committee’s mission.
With a new year on the horizon, Lohfeld and the PIC must look ahead. Lohfeld is optimistic about the role the APMP will play, acting as a voice for those in business development, capture management, and proposal development. It is an opportunity for APMP to spearhead the improvement of the procurement process for both government and industry professionals, and the outlook is good for continuing the long-term conversations among all partners.
Lohfeld’s long-term goals intend to build on those conversations and establish relationships with government procurement organizations. It is important, he says, “to be good partners and help educate the government about how its actions affect our corporate organizations and our personnel.” Within the next year, the PIC plans to focus on the relationships it has with procurement industry professionals and “act as champions for [its] member companies,” Lohfeld says. The PIC will then be able to speak on behalf of these organizations that experience difficulty in the procurement process, alerting the government to the issues. Lohfeld is hopeful that having this structure in place will allow for continued success and cooperation within the industry.
For a few tips from the PIC, go to videos.apmp.org/lessons-learned-from-the-field-3-winning-tip.
Melanie Bracey is an editor and writer with APMP’s publishing partner, The YGS Group.