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Definition Of Procurement - How The Procurement Process Does Work

Updated on November 26, 2012

Definition Of Procurement

Definition Of Procurement, a dictionary answer- the act or process of the obtaining of supplies or services, usually by a government.

Definition Of Procurement, a practical answer- the two-layer process governments and government supported entities use to get goods and services. Layer one is the way the process is suppose to operate. Layer two is the way the process actually works.

This hub attempts to define procurement as it is concerned with the second layer (the way the process actually works). The first layer (the way the process is suppose to operate) can be found here at Define Procurement.

The US Federal Government is the world's largest single purchaser of goods and service. Procurement can be defined by how the US government buys its stuff.
The US Federal Government is the world's largest single purchaser of goods and service. Procurement can be defined by how the US government buys its stuff. | Source

The Way the Procurement Process Actually Works

Getting into the federal procurement system is difficult. There are many who try, but few who persevere until accepted into the fold. The benefits of being on the inside of federal procurement are solid. One benefit of being a government vendor is the federal government’s checks do not bounce. They are probably the best credit risk you will ever take, though you should be aware their checks do come slowly, but they do come. Another reason is that once you make it inside the system, you are inside for a long while. The government changes slowly and that includes its vendors. And the main reason to slog it out to get in the government procurement system is that the government does nothing small including purchasing. The United States Government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. That is a client worth chasing.

The Civil Service Mindset

To understand how purchasing works is trying to understand how the bureaucratic mind works. Essentially it is two overlapping ideas that impact how procurement actually works and the definition of procurement.

The first is to understand that government work as a profession has been sought after as a secure position where one does not get laid off, fired (except under extreme conditions), but does get an awesome retirement and federal holidays off. The downside is there is not much upward mobility (at least quickly), the environment does not like initiative or creativity, and the pay is typically lower than industry norms (until government scale kicks in late in a civil servant's career). So, the type A personality does not seek government positions (except maybe top tier Washington, DC jobs). Civil service workers want simple, uniform, and no pressure.

The second part of the mindset is that career civil service employees see themselves as working in a government position before the actual job. Most people define themselves by what they do, spending 40 hours a week doing a job is significant part of a person’s life. Government workers put government first ahead of the actual job they do. Part of this stems from the culture that government employees work in. They are continually reminded with regulations and directives from Washington, DC that they are government employees. While someone in the private sector may work in a corporate environment, the overwhelming corporate culture is not as smothering. Most government positions are not simple Joe jobs, but are actual careers. Still, unconsciously, the bureaucratic mindset prevails before the position.

How To Use It To Get In On Government Procurement

These two ideas add up to say that the government will move slowly, no surprise there. But it also means that anything you can do to make their job easier will be a strong attractant. Indeed, that would be nice incentive for any sale, but with government workers it may be the only incentive. Civil service employees have strong restrictions against any form of renumeration, kickback, or bribe. So, your company premiums, trips, freebies will not work. Work the low price or best value angle? This is the same government of $400 hammers and $2,000 dollar toilet seats, try again. Also out is the “be the hero” pitch or they will look good in the eyes of their supervisor. Most civil service employees would be happy if their supervisor did not know they were around. The best approach (and maybe only) approach is to make their job go easier.

The Power Of Minority Certification

That is why minority certification is so powerful for government contracts. Purchasing departments already have a number of minority purchasing requirements (though no disincentive for not reaching their quota). Say you are an 8(a), HUBZone, and disabled veteran owned business, you will be able to have contracting and purchasing officers reach a number of goals just for buying from you. 8(a) also helps with a set-aside, sole-source award up to $3 million dollars, that is instead of going through an arduous process to find a source to find a vendor, the agency can just contract with an 8(a) certified company. Set-asides can help contracting officer gain the easiest path.

Why Incumbents Are Hard To Beat

This mindset also shows why incumbent vendors are hard to beat. Even if a contract is open and competitive, an incumbent has the inside track because the contracting officer would probably do what they can to make every nuance in their favor. That is because after awarding a contract there is still plenty of work for them to do, with reporting, contacts, invoicing, etc. An incumbent knows all that, and the agency knows them, and guess who makes the job easier? That is why often you will see solicitations leaning heavily toward incumbents and why contracts are renewed as long as possible rather than be put up for competition again.

Government Assistance on Amazon

Contracting with the Federal Government
Contracting with the Federal Government

This is THE BOOK for federal purchasing. It is a bit dated but still relevant when you are serious about getting federal contracts.



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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      This IS a major issue. Sometimes GSA offers a map beetwen SINS and what they think are appropriate NAICS is, but sometimes you have to fit a square peg into a round hole. Consultants will help you with this because they'll know what'll pass and what won't. Great article I just tweeted it for ya!Eileen Kent

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Well done and thanks for this. Like your previous commenter, the piece on Power of Minority was extremely interesting.

      There is a very useful resource at specifically on the procurement process including a really neat interactive process chart. Worth checking out.

    • GSA Processing profile image

      GSA Processing 

      8 years ago

      I really like your information on The Power of Minority Certifications. The government gives specific set-asides for minority, woman-owned, veteran and disabled groups.

      The GSA would rather award a GSA contract to business owners with these types of certifications for projects especially if they have a GSA schedule. They would rather do this before they allow specific projects to go out for public bid.


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