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How to prepare for procurement’s “next normal”

September 10, 2020 | Emily Lambert

In a post-COVID-19 world, governments won’t be returning to business-as-usual. With new functions such as disease monitoring and social distancing regulation, Deloitte calls this new operating model the “next normal” of work.

According to Deloitte, the response to the pandemic is highlighting many of government’s orthodoxies—the “that’s-the-way-it’s-always-been-done” ways of working that often go unstated and unquestioned. When COVID-19 started impacting North America, many public procurement teams had to come face-to-face with those orthodoxies, transforming their operations to adapt to emergency response and remote work. In the midst of all that forced change, procurement teams realized significant improvements, such as project efficiency, strengthened relationships with internal partners, and the power of procurement’s strategic contribution.

In this blog, we’ll outline three trends that emerged in government procurement due to COVID-19, and how you can embrace them to prepare for the “next normal” in procurement. 

Adaptable and efficient procurement will become the norm

In our State of Public Sourcing: COVID-19 Edition report, we found that procurement teams were doing what they could to streamline projects and get emergency supplies to the frontlines quickly and compliantly. RFP projects had a 15% decrease in the average number of evaluators per project, and non-RFP projects (such as price-driven bids or invitationals) had a 6% decrease. Across all projects, the average number of pages per vendor submission went from 207 to 156 (25% decrease), likely because procurement teams were reducing and re-prioritizing criteria so that proposals could be submitted by vendors and scored by evaluators at record speed.

COVID-19 has demonstrated that speed and efficiency are critical to meeting agency and constituent needs, and procurement teams have risen to the task. As Deloitte mentions, COVID-19 provides an opportunity to reexamine sourcing and procurement processes, making them faster and more agile, not only in emergencies but in normal times as well. As public agencies brace for the forecasted economic decline in the coming months and years, the ability to run more bids more efficiently sets up your agency to be faster, stronger, and more productive even amidst budget cuts and reprioritizations. 

Online procurement is here to stay

In our report, we found that 98% of procurement teams were working from home at some point in 2020. Additionally, 70% of procurement professionals adjusted their processes to run bid openings and meetings virtually, and 17% were planning to. 

To adapt to this new remote work environment, while also meeting the previously mentioned efficiency demands, procurement teams across North America have adopted digital procurement tools. In our survey of procurement professionals, only 10% responded that digital procurement platforms were not an important pillar of their business continuity plans. 25% said they were looking to implement a solution, and 65% said they were already using an online procurement platform.

This migration to digital tools is not a temporary trend, either. As procurement teams innovate to overcome supply shortages, award contracts within project deadlines, and stimulate local and national economies, the strategic role that procurement plays—particularly in times of crisis—has been brought into the spotlight. That’s why, when we asked procurement professionals if COVID-19’s effects have caused their organization to realize how vital digital procurement is to business continuity, 73% responded yes, and their organization will continue to make it a priority moving forward. Online procurement is here to stay because public agencies are recognizing procurement’s potential as a strategic partner. 

Evaluators expect more flexibility and convenience

Our State of Public Sourcing report also took a look at when people are completing their evaluations, comparing January/February to March/April of this year. 

Graph showing time of day that evaluations are completed

In March/April, there was a considerably higher percentage of evaluation activity performed during non-office hours (i.e., outside 8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday). Notably, the bars indicating work outside of office hours see a significant uptick before the beginning of every work day, meaning more evaluation activity has been happening from 6 am to 8 am since the start of remote work. More evaluations are also now happening on weekends, especially Sundays.

Graph comparing evaluation done during office hours vs. outside of office hours

In January/February, 13% of evaluations were done outside of office hours. In March/April, 21% of evaluations were done outside of office hours. That’s a 62% increase in evaluations done outside 8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. With so many government employees experiencing a breakdown of the barrier between work life and home life in 2020, this trend is not surprising.

This data serves as a reminder that offering evaluators flexibility and convenience in the evaluation process is more important than ever. This expectation isn’t going anywhere either; even as evaluators get back in the office, they still need to juggle their day job responsibilities with their role as an evaluator. Providing a digital tool that offers your evaluators the flexibility to complete their evaluations around other responsibilities and priorities is a surefire way to ensure a positive and engaging experience for all internal business partners. 

For more insights on how COVID-19 and remote work have become a catalyst for change in North American procurement, and how these lessons learned can prepare your team for procurement’s “next normal,” download your copy of The State of Public Sourcing: COVID-19 Edition.

About the author

Bonfire Blog Author Emily Lambert

Emily Lambert | Bonfire Interactive

As the Content Marketing Strategist at Bonfire, Emily writes thought leadership for procurement teams in the public sector. Best practices content for procurement professionals doesn’t have to be a chore to get through—which is why Emily strives to strike the balance of writing educational yet engaging content that inspires sourcing experts and equips them to make the best purchasing decisions.