This week’s interview comes from Marcheta E. Gillespie, CPPO,CPPB,C.P.M.,CPM. As if all of those certifications weren’t enough, Marcheta is the Deputy Director for the City of Tucson’s Department of Procurement. With over 18 years of experience in public procurement, Marcheta is a passionate advocate for her profession. Her areas of expertise include public procurement management, leadership, strategic planning, negotiations, contract administration, eProcurement, project management, cooperative programs and marketing.
Marcheta is the 3rd Vice President and Region XI Director on the NIGP Board of Directors, having joined the Board in 2007. She is the Vice Chair of the Finance Committee and has served as the Chair of the Guiding Principles Task Force and the National Forum Committee. Marcheta is also active in the NIGP Consulting program and has served as a leader for the Student Knowledge Community. A graduate of the University of Arizona, Marcheta has also been certified as a Franklin-Covey instructor, received her CPM from Arizona State University and became a certified instructor for NIGP in 2009.
With all of that experience, we wanted to know how bringing Procurement to the table could get us our side of VALUE!
1 – How do you define procurement? I define Procurement as the function within an organization that is responsible for the acquisition of goods and services needed for government to provide services to its community. Procurement is responsible for the strategic and operational management of that function, including working with all stakeholders to ensure the organizations’ needs are appropriately met.
2 – How is it different or similar at the State and Local level compared to the Federal level?
Each level of government operates under different sets of policies and regulations. Those who operate at the local level often have to contend with policies established based on, or related to more local concerns or issues (such as Small Business Enterprise programs and Living Wage programs). Individuals at the State and Federal level are often establishing contracts for a broad base of customers, for example, the State contracting on behalf of various state agencies and the Federal government contracting for various Federal agencies. Local government procurement focuses on the specific needs of their city, county, township, etc. Often, the Local government procurement operations have fewer layers of reviews and approvals (less “red tape”), fewer regulations to contend with and greater control over their process. At the Federal and State level, there is often an increased interaction with political leaders and dealing with political pressures. Not to suggest that Local procurement doesn’t interact with political representatives, just on a smaller scale and often with less pressure and direct influence.
3 – What are your biggest challenges? Currently, I believe the greatest challenges are how we manage the ever-growing and on-going resource reductions, while still trying to maintain the high level of customer service to our clients. Most procurement organizations I have talked with have had budget reductions and staff reductions, while a growing number are seeing decreases in their pay, furloughs and layoffs. This not only presents challenges to procurement leadership, in regards to maintaining their operations, but also how to take care of, and lead their staff during these difficult times. In addition, many have seen increased pressures from political leaders, who also are struggling with a reduction in organizational revenue, while dealing with the continued need for services from their communities. As such, organizations often see initiatives from political leaders that impact, both directly and indirectly, the function of procurement and the overall approach to acquisitions and contracting for the agency.
4 – How is new technology changing procurement for you? New technology means new ways of needing to do business while meeting the needs of our customers. For procurement, we must continue to improve our methods of delivering information and providing opportunities to our contractors and vendors. In a society increasingly accustomed to immediate access to vast amounts of information, not being able to provide the demanded access to our data and processes can be a challenge. It means we must find new ways to provide services to our stakeholder groups, whether that is enhancing services through on-line websites and procurement portals, or learning new ways of managing various solicitation processes.
For our customers, it means changes to the goods and services they acquire. This results in Procurement needing to understand how those changes affect the sourcing process, how they evaluate the goods and services and how they specify what they need for the organization. Often lacking the funding for new technology, Procurement must make the very best with what they are capable of doing, and find new ways of funding the technology that will help deliver the needed services.
5 – What’s the best way to approach an agency as a small business?
Procurement, and the agencies they represent, should focus on finding effective ways of reaching out to all contractors and vendors, especially those who may struggle to understand how to do business with government. Small businesses often lack the resources and the experience to work the many processes, documents and network of people that is typical of government.
Procurement should consider providing training on vendor registration, simple Q&A for frequently asked questions, a “How To” manual on doing business with government, outreach events providing an open forum and dialogue with key agency staff, and various other outreach initiatives. One of Procurement’s most important roles is to reduce and/or remove the possible roadblocks to all businesses who want to and are able to engage in the competitive process. As such, Procurement should welcome inquiries from small business owners who want to know how they can participate in open competition and educate them on how they can better understand government processes, and how they can better prepare themselves and their companies to be successful in competitive processes. Reaching out to a procurement representative is often the best way to learn how to get started and learn the specifics of how an agency works with its contracting community.
6 – What’s one thing non-procurement govies should know about procurement? Most definitely it is that procurement adds value to the agency! By ensuring that procurement has a “seat at the table” and is directly engaged in the strategic planning, and decision making processes of the leadership of the agency, procurement will be able to demonstrate direct organizational savings both in hard and soft dollars. Procurement has so much to offer, whether it is analyzing spend analysis, increasing efficiencies in processes and procedures, improving contract administration that results in savings, or reduction of the risks to an agency…the list goes on and on. The short answer — Procurement WILL improve the bottom line and will improve the agency’s ability to meet the needs of the community.
7 – What is the strangest thing that you have ever had to purchase/contract for? Not necessarily the strangest, but certainly unique; years ago I was responsible for establishing a contract for an aquarium in Tucson, AZ….the desert! Sadly, for various “non-procurement” related reasons, the project was terminated. However, it was one of the most fascinating projects I had the chance to work on, and the most complex.
Next to that, I would say my current project of providing procurement oversight for the Tucson Modern Day Streetcar Project is extremely challenging, complex and interesting. To be a part of this historical project is exciting and provides tremendous opportunity for Procurement to demonstrate our value to the organization.