Improve strategic sourcing outcomes with great relationships: Lessons learned from GLWA

Procurement professionals know the power of relationships in strategic sourcing. 

Better vendor relationships mean greater vendor competition. Engaged and aligned stakeholders conduct evaluations smoother and faster, making the procurement process more beneficial and less burdensome for those involved. 

Unfortunately, outdated and administratively-demanding processes can put undue stress on internal stakeholders and vendors, straining those critical relationships—and ultimately, jeopardizing effective procurement outcomes.

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA)’s utilities procurement team was experiencing these challenges first-hand. With such a large scope—GLWA supplies water to 40 percent of the state of Michigan’s population, as well as wastewater services to nearly 30 percent of Michigan’s population—it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage paper-based workflows. The time-consuming and error-prone nature of these workflows caused a lot of frustration for both internal stakeholders and vendors—a recipe for strained relationships. 

On today’s blog, we’ll dig into some insights from GLWA’s experience moving from administratively-burdensome processes to an eSourcing solution that prioritizes stakeholder relationships and vendor engagement—and how that transformed those relationships (and ultimately, the utilities procurement outcomes) for the better.

Paper-based workflows are a recipe for severed relationships

When procurement teams rely on pen-and-paper evaluation processes, no one wins. Vendors are tasked with printing binders of material, factoring in time for shipping, and worrying in the back of their minds that their bid could be disqualified because documents go missing or they miss an addendum or clarification. Evaluators, who may already be overstretched from the demands of their primary job, become overwhelmed with the administrative burden of flipping through pages and pages of information—which might not all be relevant to that particular evaluator. And procurement teams may feel more like nagging overseers than relationship-builders as they continually check-in with delayed evaluators to keep projects on track.

GLWA was in the same boat. With 21 buyers who oversee purchases that include numerous stakeholders and evaluators per project, and a vendor pool of more than 2,400 vendors, complex paper-based practices were no longer sustainable. Internal stakeholders were frustrated because evaluation times were long and contract statuses felt like a black box. GLWA was understandably concerned that these project delays and lack of visibility would put vendor relationships at risk.

Strategic sourcing software doesn’t have to turn processes upside-down

Strategic sourcing software has the potential to increase stakeholder engagement and improve vendor relationships by making the procurement process more transparent and straightforward. With so many projects on the go, however, many procurement professionals don’t have the time or the resources to dedicate to strenuous change management. 

GLWA was no different; they already had strong foundational processes in place but needed a way to execute their processes efficiently. After all, a more efficient and stakeholder-friendly process leads to more satisfied customers and partners. GLWA turned to Bonfire to digitize their existing workflow, from solicitation to award, and then through contract management and vendor relationship management. 

eSourcing empowers procurement teams to improve results

GLWA’s stakeholders and vendors were able to begin using Bonfire immediately without formal training. Vendors could submit proposals and keep related materials updated in a more efficient and cost-effective manner, and internal stakeholders saw evaluation times get cut by five to seven days. These efficiency gains alone left stakeholders and vendors more satisfied with the strategic sourcing process, but the benefits went beyond efficiency for efficiency’s sake.

With less time devoted to administrative tasks, GLWA’s utilities procurement leaders were then able to structure their buyers in more strategic positions so that they could be more effective in their jobs. Additionally, GLWA launched a small business vendor initiative, with the goal of reaching out to small vendors and bringing them into the bid process. Bonfire made it easier for GLWA to engage more vendors, increase their vendor pool, and manage relationships with those vendors. 

To learn more about how improved evaluation timelines and transparency with Bonfire’s eSourcing solution led to better vendor relations and buyer satisfaction at GLWA, read the full customer success story.

Watch the full GLWA & Bonfire story.

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About the Author

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.