COVID-19: Five business project procurement challenges ahead

Procurement has always posed project challenges, but post-COVID-19, what lies ahead for procurement specialists, and how will it impact project outcomes?

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Regardless of which industry, thanks to COVID-19, procurement specialists these days are frantically searching for products, supplies, and ways to get things shipped on time. Without clarity around exact quality specifications or timelines for delivery, it's virtually impossible to have a sense of comfort about project outcomes. 

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Post-COVID-19, procurement experts will need to become more proactive, help adjust everyone's expectations, and pay close attention to these five challenges. 

Supply-chain lag

Long after the coronavirus has passed, the hangover will likely remain for some time, leaving an enduring supply-chain and logistics nightmare. Grocery retailers and medical supply companies, among many other suppliers that are still dealing with logistics and supply-chain challenges, will likely experience prolonged supply delays. This lag in the supply chain can produce a logistics nightmare for project managers and procurement specialists, forcing both experts to build in contingency plans for potential delays and unavailable products. Planning will be vital in being able to effectively manage these types of risks.

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The fight over priority

Depending on your industry, another big challenge will be accessing products, supplies, and services in time. According to Accenture, 94% of Fortune 1,000 companies experienced supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19. Further, 75% of companies were negatively impacted as a result. Priority may not be given to some types of projects. It will be up to procurement specialists to build a case for why their projects should be prioritized over another company's projects. Even then, short supplies and delivery delays may still continue as some industries like the medical field mandate the top spot to protect human life. How do other industries work around this? "A continuous cycle of risk mobilizing, sensing, analysis, configuration, and operation will help to optimize results and mitigate risks," according to Accenture.

Reduced quality

Even if your procurement specialist is able to secure the products needed to keep your projects or operations moving, the quality of those products may not be up to the specifications needed. Depending on the nature of your project and the quality standards required, your project deliverable dates may need to be adjusted, or discussions with clients about quality aspects need to take place. If quality isn't an issue, your project will likely proceed, but expectations will need to be reset and approved. As with safety standards, quality assurance is a significant factor and likely to delay projects unless other options arise. It's vital for project managers to work with risk and procurement management specialists to determine the optimal course of action. 

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Rising costs

If you are able to secure most or all of the products, supplies, or services required, chances are even after COVID-19, the costs may have increased, pushing your project over budget. Adjusting your project scope and customer expectations will be essential. As most of the world has been experiencing the same supply shortages and procurement challenges, chances are a discussion about rising costs won't be unique in your company. Some companies may choose to pay the increase in costs while others will delay or downgrade projects and operations. The key will be re-evaluating the feasibility of moving forward or waiting. 

Decreased maintenance and support

Delays and reduced systems maintenance and customer support will likely be another post-COVID-19 casualty. This may be one of the most frustrating concerns for companies and their customers. Especially companies whose customers have experienced stellar customer support in the past. Keeping customers in the loop using tools like social media is essential to retaining customers. Although reaching support by telephone or chat might become lengthier, social media is a great way to share news and updates with all of your customers. Transparency is key in reducing frustration and setting new expectations.

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