Procurement Professionals: The First Action Hero

Did you know there are action heroes in every procurement office? If you’re anything like me, you grew up watching action stars of the 70s, 80s, and 90s in blockbuster movies do all kinds of amazing heroic feats on screen.

You watched them formulate incredible action plans to accomplish a common goal with a multitude of different characters from different backgrounds and thought, “There’s no way they’re going to be able to pull that off!” You watched them negotiate tense contract deals, even sometimes through language barriers or other obstacles and marveled at their ability to recognize when the terms and conditions didn’t seem right. You mouthed along with them when they narrowed their eyes and tersely delivered their line, “No deal.” You watched them drink black coffee as they stayed up late nights studying documents and admired their crisp suits as they walked into the courtrooms and slammed their briefcases down on the table. You cheered them on during harrowing moments as they crawled through the vents at Nakatomi Plaza or held your breath as they made their way through the jungle hunting the alien that was also hunting them. Then, you grew up and became a procurement professional. Okay, maybe that wasn’t your exact career trajectory, but when put into context, many of the scenarios that played out in our favorite action films on the big screen have real-life parallels in the world of procurement. We may not
have grown up to become top Air Force striker pilots, but we are action heroes in our own ways.

When You Think About it…

On its face, procurement probably doesn’t seem very action-packed, but all of the same elements are there:

All of these contributions are critical to the success of the agency’s projects, and because we are public servants, they are also often critical to the states, cities, and towns we live in. How many times have you driven past a completed infrastructure project that you had a hand in procuring and felt a sense of pride? It’s a good feeling knowing that our careers have a direct, positive impact on our communities. I’d imagine that’s a lot like how Superman feels but with no tights required.   

Modern Times Require a Modern Protagonist

Many procurement professionals will admit that even though they ended up in their career by happenstance, it doesn’t lessen their commitment to the profession. They’ll also admit that there’s difficulty in explaining the function of the role; it is often thought of as someone who just “buys stuff.” However, as we’ve previously established, the role of procurement goes far beyond that. It has become a role that is a strategic partner to nearly every other department in the organization. That definitely sounds like the description of a hero.

With NASPO’s 2024 release of the annual Top 10 Priorities for State Procurement list, Modernizing the Procurement Process ranked #1. With the prevalence of new technology that public agencies will eventually have to deal with (if they’re not already), such as generative AI, IoT or Smart products, anything-as-a-service, and electric vehicles, modern procurement professionals will need to keep abreast via industry publications and training opportunities to keep their skills sharp, advocate for ways to use new technologies in their procurement processes, and be unafraid to check out how their fellow public agencies are using technology in ways that work. You don’t have to become an IT expert, but a good hero always knows how and when to go back to the drawing board.

Giving Credit Where It’s Due

March is National Procurement Month, where we proudly celebrate the role of public procurement professionals and all of their contributions to our society. The idea of them as action heroes from the movies we grew up loving is all in fun, but we also know that sometimes this crucial role doesn’t get the credit it deserves. One of NASPO’s core tenets is the upliftment of the profession through various means. In the hilarious sitcom “The Office,” the character Dwight Schrute says, “Do you know who the real heroes are? The guys who wake up every morning and go into their normal jobs, and get a distress call from the Commissioner, and take off their glasses, change into capes, and fly around fighting crime.” You may not change into a cape and fly around fighting crime, but we want procurement professionals dedicated to public service to be affirmed that what they do on a daily basis is vital and important.

So play your favorite song in your office today, and let it be your theme song. In the words of the late, great action hero Bernie Casey: “All great heroes should have one.”



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *