A Tale of Two Professions – How Architecture and Procurement Align.

The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) recently published an article in it’s Supply Management Blog.  The article is called The Six Fundamentals of procurement

The article is written by Francis Churchill and quotes Matthew Sparkes Deputy Director, Financial Services, Crown Commercial Service at the University of Gloucestershire in London.

Mr. Sparkes offers great practical advice for anyone old or young in a procurement function.

As someone who can relate to Mr. Sparkes in not being a “procurement person” by trade, I find great value in bringing experience from other fields into procurement.

For me, the experience of being an architect has greatly enhanced much of what I do in procurement.  Throughout my procurement career, I have found many parallels between the process of architecture and the process of procurement.

Today, I want to share with you how the processes from these two seemingly unrelated professions align.

Procurement Profile / Project Programming

One of the first steps in architecture is developing a project program.  During this phase of work, the architect spends time interviewing the Owner and his staff to develop a program for the space.  This program is the foundation for a floor plan.  It identifies the number of rooms, adjacencies between rooms, equipment that is needed for the space, and number of occupants the space should accommodate.

In procurement, we start the process by talking to stakeholders to understand the scope of services or goods that are needed.  During these interviews, we ask probing questions, to help understand priorities, incumbent relationships, and projected spend.  From these interviews we formulate a procurement profile that informs us on the size of the opportunity, helps us formulate a supplier profile, identifies priorities, and defines the scope of the sourcing.

Supplier Sourcing and Prequalification/ Blocking Diagrams

After an architect has a project program the next step in the process is to develop the blocking diagram.  Blocking diagrams are used as a precursor to a schematic plan.  The blocking diagram acts as a list of rooms graphically showing adjacencies between rooms and diagrammatically shows the size and scale of each room in relation to the others.

A supplier sourcing and prequalification similarly creates a list of potential bidders setting them side by side for evaluation.  The prequalification process includes preliminary research on each supplier to help identify the best qualified vendors to solicit.  We use KT scoring to generate a ranking and ultimately a short list of vendors to invite to bid.

RFP Development / Schematic Design

During the schematic phase of work the architect further develops the blocking plan into a conceptual floor plan and a schematic design.  The architect documents the information collected in the project program and blocking diagram to develop the schematic design.  This schematic design becomes the foundation for further development of the drawings.  The schematic design is presented to the client for approval before moving on to the next phase.

In procurement, we developed the request for proposal from the information we collected in the procurement profile.  The RFP becomes the foundation for the rest of the solicitation.  We also use information learned during the pre-qualification about the supplier pool to enhance are qualification questionnaires.  The request for proposal is then presented to the client for approval before releasing the solicitation.

Bid Analysis / Design Development

During design development the architect further develops the schematic plan using information and feedback received from the owner.  The architect may also derive critical information from the code or discover key information from various sources such as engineers and product vendors that help further refine the details of his schematic plan.  Once again before proceeding to the next phase of work the architect will present the design development drawings to the owner.

For procurement, bid analysis is another opportunity for discovery.  Quotations are received from the bidders and set side by side for evaluation.  Once again using KT scoring and line by line analysis we begin to see a select few vendors rise to the top.  Our analysis reveals critical pieces of information about each vendor.  As information allows us to further refine our negotiation strategies and our recommendations.  This information is packaged and formatted to present to the owner for review and evaluation.

Contract Development / Construction Documents and Specifications

During the final phase of drawing development an architect pulls together the various details and pieces of information into a well coordinated set of drawings and specifications.  Bearing in mind the importance of clear communication to the contractor the architect performs multiple reviews ensuring that each detail is properly coordinated with each plan.  These documents are then prepared to present to the building authority for review and approval.

In preparing a contract, a procurement professional pulls together all of the relevant information into the contract.  All of the terms and commitments made by the parties are pulled into the contract.  Pricing exhibits and the scope of work documents are coordinated and properly labeled within the body of the agreement.  This contract is formatted and finalize for review by the party’s legal representative.

Negotiations / Construction Administration

In the final phase of work, the architect conducts site visits to review the progress of the work.  During these visits the architect may help answer questions about the design intent and clarify details.  The architect may also documents field observations and report to the owner work that is not compliant with the contract documents.

In closing the solicitation, the procurement professional manages the documents as they pass from the owner to the vendor and back for execution.  Terms may need to be negotiated between the parties often requiring the procurement professional to identify middle ground positions and clarify intent from either party.  But procurement professional may also document other covenants and add commitments to the final draft of the agreement.


When I  made the move from architecture to procurement, I wasn’t conscious of the parallels between these two professions.  In some ways I wonder if these correlations are simply my own way of aligning one profession to the other.  Regardless, I think it’s quite interesting to see how similar the processes of one correlates to the other.

What about you?  Have you made a career move from one profession to another?  If so, I wondered if you have made similar correlations to your former profession.  Tell me your stories.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this content, please feel free to browse my previous articles and please like, share, comment, and subscribe.  This helps promote my content and is greatly appreciated.


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