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This research is based on a series of interviews with commercial sector purchasing professionals who are respected by their peers for their successful creation and implementation of what are widely accepted as best purchasing and supply management practices, particularly in the area of service acquisitions. The authors also examine such practices through conference participation and a review of the business literature. They find that commercial firms rely on results-oriented metrics that focus on how acquisition activities support corporate objectives to manage their service acquisition activities. While not a commercial firm, the Air Force can learn from commercial firms’ experiences in managing its service acquisitions. The authors recommend a balanced portfolio of performance metrics for the Air Force based on the five major categories of results-oriented metrics that appeared most often in their research: cost, quality, supplier satisfaction, implementation of new initiatives, and special interest items. Commercial firms indicated that in addition to the results-oriented metrics, internal management metrics that track internal customer satisfaction, personnel training and retention, and ethics violations are also important. Selected metrics are reported to top-level executives on a regular basis.

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The research reported here was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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