Procurement Is Critical for National Security-- and Business Success

Published : August 6, 2014

procurementChances are that the back end of your business isn't keeping terrorism at bay— or securing the safety of the nation as a whole— but that doesn't mean that isn't a valuable lesson to be learned in mimicking the organizations that do. 

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, former director of procurement operations for the Department of Homeland Security Nick Nayak highlighted some of his tips for success in fulfillment and distribution that easily transfers to private sector operations

Have a Plan in Place

While it may seem a little overly simplistic, Nayak points out that if he hadn't had a detailed plan in place for every step of his organization-wide renovation process, he likely wouldn't have succeeded in turning around efficiency within the department. 

It can be tempting to get the first few steps hammered out and take a "cross the bridge when you come to it" approach for the rest. But consider this: would you take the same approach to product quality control or elect to "play it by ear" in terms of employee compliance standards? 

The truth is that your distribution framework— as well as any plans to adjust or improve it— need to be just as important as these factors and others that tend to naturally take center stage in operational focus.

Create Consistency across Multiple Decision-Makers

Once Nayak set a plan in place, he ensured that everyone was on the same proverbial page when it came to implementation. Before the plan was even set in motion, he and his team selected tracking metrics and agreed upon thresholds to determine success or failure of a given effort. 

With clear-cut boundaries and metric standards infused into your fulfillment and distribution plans, there's less room for error and a clear goal that your entire team will know to aim for. 

Your distribution partners should also be privy to these thresholds, and, ideally, easy to reach and update on the fly. A domestically-based business, for example, should strive to keep as many points of their distribution process domestic as possible to eliminate confusion and stay efficient in the communication/implementation cycle.

Don’t Treat Procurement as a Set-and-Forget Process

From changes in the marketplace and overall business climate to compromised shipping routes, getting the items your company needs at the price they want is a skill that requires hitting a constantly-moving target. No company— not even The Department of Homeland Security— can afford to find "the" provider and then strap on blinders. 

Your team and your plan should be committed to flexibility and staying current regardless of buying conditions.  You need to be aware of both opportunities for innovation and potential fulfillment pitfalls lest you find yourself paying far more for materials than you need to or empty-handed altogether.

Establish a Trustworthy Team and Enduring Systems

Retirement and unexpected life changes are a natural part of even the most dedicated manager or CEO's career. When you consciously choose team members that are committed to your company's goals and dedicated to achieving success, you won't have to worry that your carefully-built path will go astray in your absence. 

Additionally, Nayek points out that his focus on creating an institutionalized workflow has made the transition for his successor virtually seamless, now that he has stepped down. Following his footsteps by outlining a workflow in your own company will prevent hiccups during retirements, mergers and even acquisitions.

Fulfillment and distribution processes are not static components of a business, be it private sector or government agency. By assigning respect and attention to these facets with the tips above, you'll be well on your way to enjoying the level of measurable success enjoyed during and after Nayek's tenure at the Department of Homeland Security.

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Topics: Supply Chain Logistics

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