Professional Responsibility in Procurement
As you’ll read more about on Friday, this week’s BMP event pick is the Ethics of Legal Process Outsourcing presented by Sourcing Interests Group. As a tie in, today’s Wiki-Wednesday topic is “Professional Responsibility” – mostly because the phrase “competent representation” doesn’t exist as a Wikipedia page. Without stealing all my own thunder for later in the week, the event was very interesting, and it gave me an opportunity to consider some parallels between the outsourcing of legal services and procurement’s contribution to an organization.
Throughout the presentation, the speakers shared (or in legal speak “set forth”) opinions from major legal regulatory bodies like the American Bar Association (ABA) and the New York Bar. Let me share a few of them with you – and then let’s see what they have to offer us…
ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1-Competence
(a) A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
Translation: In order to be doing your job well, you need to have brain AND brawn.
Here is what I like about this statement as a reminder of our duty to our employers: “thoroughness and preparation”. Hopefully, we all have the requisite knowledge and skills to begin with, but as the task list grows and the distractions mount, how thorough are we? Do we take time to think through all of the options on a project? Cost structures? New solution models? Do we brainstorm with colleagues? Read forums on LinkedIn? It is easy to boil our job down to a task list, but it is the time we put into thought that allows us to really function as strategic contributors. It may mean that less projects get done in a given time period, but if each one is done a little better and the results are a little stronger, the outcome should speak for itself.
New York Bar Opinion 2006-3
4 Proper supervision is also critical to ensuring that the lawyer represents his or her client competently......., — obviously, the better the non-lawyer’s work, the better the lawyer’s work-product.
Translation: If the awarded supplier(s) ‘stink’, some of that smell is going to rub off on you, too.
While procurement may be quantitatively evaluated by spend under management or savings dollars or percents, how the rest of the organization feels about our value add is based on our process, and the resulting contracts put in place. Even though we don’t usually get to make the award decision, we need to be sure that our vetting process allows only qualified suppliers to be considered for award. Starting early by making sure measurable objectives are stated and recorded, then researching the market prior to soliciting and accepting bids, and finally helping with the development of a valid scoring or evaluation process allow us to have control over the final pool of candidates. And if you feel that your business ownership team is going astray at a critical moment, or selecting a supplier that (despite your efforts and process) is not truly qualified, that is when you stand up and make as much noise as you can to whoever will listen. Once that supplier is in place and the inevitable problems start to surface, you were THERE. And while you didn’t make the choice, you also didn’t stop it. The better the winning supplier(s), the better procurement appears to the organization that chooses them.
ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.6- Confidentiality of Information
4 (a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted in part. (b).
Translation: If you can’t articulate a reason to share something, keep it to yourself.
Okay, so there is no such thing as business owner – procurement confidentiality, at least I’ve never seen it invoked on Law & Order. What I do know is that there should be a well thought out plan for disclosing details to suppliers in a bidding process, and that it should be developed by all involved parties internally. With the exception of proposal-specific feedback, all information given during the bidding process should be shared with all suppliers. Not for some dramatic legal reason, but simply because you can’t be sure how each detail will affect the final pricing from each supplier. In order to make the right award decision, you have to know that the bids are as comparable as can be. There are always going to be some differences because no two solutions/suppliers/models are exactly alike. That being said, why not remove the possibility of differentiation in one of the areas where you have the power to control it?
Like what I'VE "set forth"? Check back on Friday to catch my notes on the SIG webinar on the Ethics of Legal Process Outsourcing.