Is your business defined by your buggy whip? Or how you go about solving the propulsion problem?
In “the Enterprise,” procuring people to perform known chunks of work remains a woefully early 20th Century activity.
For example: First, define the product that is made and the tools used to build it (e.g., airplane fuselage and rivet gun).
Next, enter into a relationship (e.g., employee, contractor, etc.) to bind people to using a certain tool, at a certain location, for a certain purpose for a certain duration on a certain timetable (e.g., sheet metal worker at Boeing assembly plant, second shift for a five-year term).
For very big projects, the contract can go on for years.
But what happens when the tools change very quickly?
Or the technology?
What happens when the procurement cycle is longer than the complete lifecycle of a technology?
Imagine being staffed to a “MySpace” media contract in 2006 for a 5-year term. Expect to get de-staffed after two years.
Imagine a 99-year lease on a coal-fired power plant today. Environmentalists probably will intervene before that lease is up.
Do we keep old contracts and ignore that they deal with nonexistent roles, products or technologies?
Can procurement be parsed in a meaningful way to keep it more flexible?
Is there a useful way to make the procurement process itself go faster?
Can we get vague about terms and be comfortable with that? Trade “MySpace” for “social media services.” Or specify “energy production” and hope for the best on that 99-year lease on the coal power plant?
Can the procurement cycle be more nimble so that what we intend to buy, and the means to procure those products and services, don’t take up a majority of the overhead to actually perform the work?
If we continue to push the old way of doing business, it will become harder and harder (read: expensive) to find willing contractors to perform those roles.
Government IT contracts especially suffer this fate. It wouldn’t take much digging to find still-valid contracts requiring knowledge of FrontPage extensions, even though that’s ten-year old, obsolete tech.
In the same breath: How does an organization plan for unknown events?
It’s ironic that the professional discipline of contracting for technology lags behind contracting for other, less cutting-edge disciplines.
Is it time for procurement reform? Any folks in the procurement or acquisition roles — feel free to chime in.