Industry Watch – A Seat at the Table – Should Architects and Procurement Professionals be Relegated to an Administrative Function?

Today I want to talk about an article published in May 2018 that comes to us from “American City and County”.  “American City and County” is an online publication focused on state and local government issues.

Their article entitled, “Earning a Seat at the Table” takes a look at the role of procurement in the public sector.  The article was written by Derek Prall and focuses on a recent survey asking the question, “Should Procurement be it’s own entity?”.  Prall also interviews several public officials from US State governments.

There is an overarching theme in the article suggesting that procurement professional are often relegated to an administrative function acting simply as administrators.

One of my key observations from Prall’s article was how discussions about the future of the procurement profession parallel some of the discussion about the future of the architecture profession.

An opinion piece published in April of 2018 on the website Architect’s Journal addresses the need for Architects to take control of the construction process.   The editorial is written in the context of the Grenfell fire and suggests that mistakes made at Grenfell might have been avoided if Architect’s had been given more of a voice in certain decisions.

In addition, this week I read a discussion thread in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) forum where Architects discuss whether Owner’s should hire Engineer’s directly allowing the Architect to be a separate standalone entity.  The dreaded sense of relegation to “just a design” is dripping throughout that thread.

So it seems that both Procurement Professionals and Architects alike struggle with being relegated to lesser roles and both are seeking a more prominent seat at the proverbial table.

For Today’s article I want to turn this around and rather than lament the state of each profession, I want to herald the value that each brings.  Of course, this is all within the context of construction.

Strategic Vision

Both procurement professionals and architects share the responsibility of setting the strategic vision for the project.

Procurement professionals develop the strategy for the job by helping the Owner determine which delivery and pricing model to use.  This sets the framework for the rest of the project and is the overarching strategy for the whole project.

Architects develop the space plans and overall geometry of the building.  This becomes the foundation for all of the building systems.

Jacks of all trades

Both procurement professionals and architects must understand the roles and responsibilities of all of the parties.  Every  construction project requires the cooperation of dozens of experts.  On their own, each of these experts produces only a fraction of the work required to deliver a final product.

Procurement professionals need to understand each aspect of a project and help the Owner determine the best way to address each scope of work. This requires an understanding of dozens of different trades.  In addition, when a procurement strategy determines that certain items are to be Owner provided, an understanding of that item is critical to it’s successful procurement.

Architects are the quintessential Master Builders.  Architecture registration requires an understanding of every building system.  It’s part of our professional examination.  The Architect is the only construction professional trained in every single aspect of construction.  Without an Architect at the helm of a project that parts would simply not fit together.

The Owner’s Advocate

There simply are no other roles in construction who represent the Owner’s interests the same as Procurement Professionals and Architects.

Procurement shares one simple yet critical interest with the Owner.  Saving money!

That’s right not even an Architect can claim to have the same motivation for achieving savings and that alone places procurement professionals in alignment with the Owner in a very unique way.  Even more than that, procurement also knows that saving money is only valuable if the work is done right.  These two motivating factors place procurement professionals in a unique position of advocacy for their Clients.

With the exception of fellow Engineers, Architects are the only construction professionals who are professionally licensed to perform their work.  This places the Architect in a unique position of liability that is greater than any other role in construction.  For this reason, Architect’s are the Owner’s greatest advocate in construction and should be the trusted partner they should never be without.


So to close out Prall’s discussion and to quell my colleague’s (from both professions) concerns, both Architects and Procurement professionals hold a special and invaluable seat at the table.  Neither can be replace by any other and no Owner should consider taking on a project without them.

Both professions are facing changes in their professions.  Some changes will require new ways of thinking.  Some change may require new ways of working.  However, there is no degree of change that will ever replace these roles.  They are the strategists, the orchestrators, and the advocates required on every job.

What do you think?  Will Architects ever be replaced?  Should Procurement be relegated to administrative functions?  Tell me your stories.

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