10 procurement questions that expose the whole kit and caboodle*

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

We’re going back to basics with this post. We meet non-procurement specialists with “procurement” responsibilities that just need a ‘nudge’… To set up and manage supplier (vendor or contractor)
engagements is tough, especially because some suppliers are much better at bidding than they are at delivering the contract.

How do you get the core information you need to ensure a successful supplier engagement? Here’s a simple but incredibly effective checklist we recommend to our clients – that include 33 current FTSE100 and many multinational corporations  – across a range of sectors including investment banking, IT and aerospace-defence (we’ve set up and managed thousands of supplier engagements.)

Here’s how it works; just start from the beginning with Question 1 of 10, in total, and work your way through each subsequent question. These 10 simple questions will improve your approach to supplier engagements. By the way if you have any to add, please provide your suggestions in the comments below. So, with a little help from our ‘grey-haired’ team you can vastly improve the value from your Suppliers.

10 procurement questions – to ask Suppliers – that expose the whole kit and caboodle to improve the value from your suppliers (and vendors and contractors…). Here we go!

Q1. Do you know what you are buying? Admit you are not (always) a technical expert – get the Supplier to explain their value in business terms.

Q2. Are the responsibilities clear (who, what, why and when)? Let’s be clear on obligations and liabilities (note you might have some).

Q3. Has the Supplier explained how the deliverables are going to be achieved? A method statement or plan (you did ask for one, right?).

Q4. What does the Supplier need from you? Dependency on the Buyer can we a useful excuse for failure – by some Suppliers. Clarity is key.

Q5. Are deliverables linked to acceptance prior to payment? You need to define and jointly agree what is acceptance (agreed prior to contract award).

Q6. What happens if things go wrong? We always ask the (big-spend, strategic) Suppliers for their risk register (they have got one, right?).

Q7. Are responsibilities to report progress clearly stated (no surprises)? Ask Supplier to define management information in their Proposal.

Q8. How is the Supplier’s performance monitored? Is everything on track to ensure delivery? How do you know? Do we have to mention G4S and the Olympics?

Q9. What will success look like? (i.e. timing, quality and cost). Are these clear in the contract / SOW.

TLA alert! Three letter acronyms are just as common in procurement as any other function. Always ask
the Supplier to explain their TLAs. SOW is statement of work referring to a specification or terms of reference (ToR) or the Requirement. The exact term really depends on your industry and type of spend.

Q10. If it is not clear to you, how can it be clear to the Supplier? (Admittedly a question for you more
than the Supplier).

What is ‘it’ in Q10? It is the complete procurement – SoW, pricing, contracts obligations and
liabilities – the whole relationship in fact.

Misaligned expectations are the number 1 cause of commercial disputes. We have found that our 10 Questions do work across a wide range of products, services and commodities from sourcing
website designs to submarines… and everything in between.

*Kit and Caboodle : A collection of things. A kit – is set of objects, as in a toolkit, or what a soldier would put in his kit-bag. A caboodle – is an archaic term meaning group or collection, usually of people. 

Quite apt for the 10 questions don’t you think?

Brian Farrington Ltd offers four core areas of procurement and supply chain capability:

  •  Strategic review and commercial governance
  •  Performance delivery and transition
  •  Major project support including lead negotiator roles
  •  Learning & development in support of organisational aims.

Stephen Ashcroft can be reached on  or 01744 20698.

He is also (avidly!) on Twitter @ProcureChange #sustainability #risk #procurement