Caveat Emptor! Translated from Latin, it means “let the buyer beware.” In daily commerce, this phrase is meant to convey the importance for the purchaser to conduct their due diligence to see that the product or service being procured is not defective.
Certainly, Caveat Emptor is wise counsel for all of us when making any purchase of value. We likely all know of sellers who lack the moral character to guarantee their product or service will perform as promised. However, there is an even more dangerous party involved in this transaction than the seller. Unfortunately, yet often, that dangerous party is us!
Whether in our personal or professional transactions, we race forward, convinced that we know what we need, without taking the required time and analysis to discover what is necessary to meet our desired results. Naturally, this lack of planning is compounded when multiple stakeholders will be impacted by any sloppy or failed procurement, which is most often the case when making any substantial business purchase.
To overcome our instinct to rush ahead, it’s imperative that we understand and can answer the following questions:
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- What are the requirements to solve that problem?
- What does “done” look like?
While these questions may seem like simple common sense, we often fail to conduct our procurement efforts with these questions in mind. When I was a much younger man, operating in the role as a controller for a small distribution company, I was tasked with purchasing and implementing an accounting software package for the business.
As I look back, I realize that my perspective, the process by which I conducted my search, and the final decision to buy, was far too limited. While I had high-level business requirements I identified, I did not conduct as thorough an investigation as I should have to meet the needs of all the stakeholders impacted. A score of years later, I have had the benefit of education and training that focuses on:
- documenting and prioritizing a thorough list of business requirements,
- engaging the stakeholders impacted and discovering their individual needs and aspirations,
- documenting the current processes associated with those business requirements and considering how those processes might be improved,
- leveraging Lean Six Sigma principles to enhance productivity,
- exploring the vendor community for potential solutions,
- developing a realistic budget and timeline,
- identifying and documenting the risks associated with pursuing the purchase,
- understanding and documenting the impact the change will have on the stakeholders, and
- preparing fellow team members for the change that is coming, ensuring they understand and accept the critical role that they play in the success of this purchase and implementation.
While not an exhaustive list, these points do offer a framework to consider before making any major business purchase. So, before you take into action the lyrics of Jonathan Edwards’ song Sunshine…“how much does it cost, I’ll buy it”…Stop! Do your due diligence and still, Caveat Emptor.