By Nicole Eger, SME, Market Research & Analytics

Category Management is the emerging practice in commercial purchasing. In fact, if you work in retail, you’re probably a Category Management expert. However, most of Federal procurement is once again behind the times.

The underlying cause is not that the significance of Category Management is not recognized, but rather the structural changes to Federal Programs and Contracting are not receptive to implementation. Federal Program managers must develop a team of subject matter experts, policy wonks, and other staff to put together their acquisition package. Many of those other team members are temporary, which makes establishing a baseline structure to support Category Management difficult. The development of a strong Category Management structure is the foundation for a successful Category Management program. This includes not only placing the right people in the right positions to support the effort, but correctly identifying and assigning the roles and responsibility of the Category Management team members.

Federal Procurement professionals spend most of their time putting out fires. Much of this boils down to the following:

  1. Multiple Directorate/Agency Responsibilities
    • Tasked with a variety of topics instead of being able to focus and excel in fewer areas
    • Meeting schedules
    • Supporting multiple mission objectives and other programs
  2. Demand Rates
    • Increased level of demand for acquisitions
    • Urgent need to replace failed contracts
  3. Availability
    • Finding time for large groups of stakeholders to meet
  4. Revisions
    • Document preparations
    • Revisions to the package after a rejection from Contracting
    • Revisions to the package after a rejection from the Small Business Office

These are not all-inclusive hindrances. Throwing money at a program and telling them to run a Category Management program is not the answer. It is past time that Federal acquisition employs a deliberate thought process to establish organic capability. As the tendency will be to hire someone else to do it, the dollars would be better spent to have a commercial firm mentor Federal staff on building the foundation of a successful Category Management program, train placed Federal staff on how to look at and perform the elements of Category Management, and develop Federal staff to take over the reins.

If you’re ready to transform your organization using Category Management best practices, reach out to us. We’re ready to help.