Dilemma for New Members – Identifying Group(s) to Join – Acquisition, Procurement, Contracts – Federal, State, or Local

Key Words: Acquisition, Procurement, Purchasing, Contracts, Contracting, Supply, Supply-chain, Supply Chain Management, Materials Management, Construction, A/E/C, Public Works, A & E Design, Tendering,Sourcing, Strategic Sourcing and all of the former in 2.0

It’s not rocket science. If “a rose is a rose is a rose”, then acquisition is acquisition is acquisition, right? If you work in a federal government environment and are accustomed to the common use of that term when applied to trade of the expert practitioners who operate under the Federal Acquisition Requirements, (FAR),you may agree. Most of the rest of us probably don’t think of “Acquisition” as having that connotation. For those in state or local government, “Acquisition” is a term used for the new work of art just secured by the museum, or it is the result of the successful new real estate transaction. There is no agreement, formal or informal, on what to call the alternative. “Purchasing” is considered “old school” and an unwelcome reminder for some of the days when purchasing was disrespected as easily replaceable simplistic process oriented folks who “bought pens and pencils” “Supply” is a popular term internationally. Who has more prestige than the venerable British “Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply” or more clout than the Institute of Supply Management, ISM which brings us those eagerly anticipated monthly index reports related how the economy is performing? But, some are offended by the fact that supply and manufacturing based titles make no reference to service contracting which is a major portion of the workload procurement and contracting professionals carry in the public sector. Many in state and local government include “Procurement” in their role descriptions under the premise that services are included under that definition and it is preferable to purchasing. The author once reported to a city manager who was a former chief of police. He said he would rather die than have a “procurement” department report to him. (He lived!). Obviously he carried a different life experience into his new role. Many have strong feelings rooted in their own personal experience concerning what their profession is called. Contracts, contracting, and supplychain and materials management are identifier terms highly favored by some. However, none are without some type of flaw because that they too fail to describe the total function.

In the GovLoop social network environment, the dilemma is this: We want to have one label for the button to click at the gateway page of GovLoop that universally leads new GovLoop members coming from various backgrounds to their professional group of interest for the art of buying products and/or services. The worst case scenario is for new members not to become involved and “walk away” not because groups fitting their interest don’t exist, but because they are not easily identifiable when the new member first signs on and searches. There are now over 700 groups on GovLoop. If searching for

acquisition, procurement, or contracting, there is no one term that all sectors relate to as a universal descriptive of the profession. That is unfortunate.

Isn’t it ironic that we are rolling out all of the interactive 2.0 versions of the terms we use, but can’t agree on unification of what it is the 2.0 version of? We need a term we can all agree upon so everyone will know the right button to push! Shall we put out an RFI or an RFQ or maybe an RFP? Anyone know a good consultant? Oh heck! Maybe we just need to use a bigger button!?

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Ha…I say no RFP. But a good point and something we are trying to work on.

Any suggestions? We want to let flowers bloom but also don’t want it to be too too confusing.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Hal – thanks for opening up the conversation to the broader community.

My idea for the acquisition/contracting/procurement challenge on GovLoop:

– Crowdsource a 10-15 slide presentation in PowerPoint or Prezi: first 5-6 slides explains the general history and differences in acquisition, contracting and procurement you cite above….then the last 5-6 slides explain the differences in the various groups on GovLoop. You could embed the final product in each group as the “GovLoop Guide for Gov’t People Who Buy Stuff.” This will help people to understand where they might find the best fit on GovLoop…and understand the interconnectivity of purchasing across government.


Harold (Hal) Good, CPPO

Thanks for the responses. Where else could one get such a fast and helpful reply from the top?! Thank you both! It is not GovLoop’s fault that the procurement / acquisition profession doesn’t have a universally accepted label. I like the idea of the Power Point and embed! I was kidding (I am sure everyone knows) about the RFP. However, I was only half kidding about the button. Could you take the existing Acquisition button and add a slash mark and Procurement below that?
Acquisition /Procurement I can’t format it here, but just maybe it could be squeezed in?
Thanks again!