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Is now the time to advocate for digital procurement tools?

August 25, 2020 | Emily Lambert

Typewriter on a desk

Digital procurement tools can empower your team to reduce costs and drive best value for your agency by streamlining operational tasks, increasing vendor competition, and fostering better stakeholder collaboration. And as many teams work in a remote environment, having the ability to conduct all procurement tasks online is more important than ever. But with COVID-19 leading to tightened budgets and a focus on cost savings in the public sector, is now the time to advocate for procurement software? 

In our latest State of Public Sourcing Report, we dug into first-party data on how COVID-19 and remote work were impacting public procurement teams. We came away with two findings: 1) Public agencies are recognizing the role procurement plays in a crisis, and 2) public agencies are open to investments in technology—particularly digital procurement.

Let’s take a closer look at how we came to those conclusions, and why they point to the fact that now is, in fact, the right time to advocate for procurement technology. 

Public agencies are recognizing the role procurement plays in a crisis

When COVID-19 first hit North America, we saw firsthand from our clients that public procurement teams pivoted their efforts to run more urgent bids with shorter timelines. Our data showed that the average organization was running 2.5 RFP project types and 4.3 non-RFP project types (such as price-driven bids or invitationals).

Graph of RFP vs. Non-RFP Project Counts

Procurement teams have been doing what they can to streamline these projects and get emergency supplies to the frontlines quickly and compliantly. RFP projects have gone from having an average of 4.46 evaluators to 3.8 evaluators—a 15% decrease. The average number of pages per vendor submission went from 207 to 156 (25% decrease), likely because procurement teams are reducing and re-prioritizing criteria so that proposals can be submitted by vendors and scored by evaluators more quickly. 

To meet their constituents’ new and unexpected needs at this time, while managing supply shortages, creativity is a critical skill for procurement teams. One of our favorite stories covered in The State of Public Sourcing Report is from the St. Joseph’s Health System. When long-term care facilities across the country moved from providing meals in a dining area to individual rooms, there was a nationwide shortage of overbed tables. St. Joseph’s Health System overcame these challenges by sourcing TV tables instead in order to meet this unique need.

In times of crisis, constituents look to their government, and procurement is the driving force in practically ensuring people get the goods and services they need. Public agencies are recognizing procurement’s role not just as an operational process, but as a strategic partner, especially in times of crisis. 

Public agencies are open to investments in technology—particularly digital procurement

Compared to last year, public organizations are conducting 37% more telecommunications bids and RFPs.

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Educational institutions and municipalities in particular are investing in telecom software at an unprecedented rate. Many K-12 and higher education institutions brought learning online in March and April, resulting in a 219% increase in telecommunications bids and RFPs. Municipalities, similarly, saw a 118% increase in telecommunications bids as local governments adjusted to a new remote work reality.

Graph of telecommunication services for education and municipalities

Although public agencies may have previously viewed IT and software as a “nice to have” rather than a business-critical expense, as many organizations have had to make the jump to remote work, software services that enable remote productivity and communication have become critical to ensuring business continuity.

Additionally, our State of Public Sourcing Report found that 73% of procurement professionals said COVID-19’s effects caused their organization to realize how vital digital procurement is, and that their organization will continue to make it a priority. 

Survey data: Did COVID-19's effects cause your organization to realize how vital digital procurement is to business continuity?

Not only are public agencies recognizing the power of software to meet their constituents’ needs during times of crisis, but there is a new understanding of the role digital procurement has in the public sector. This presents a unique opportunity for procurement teams like yours to advocate for the digital tools that will future-proof your processes for any future disruptions.

The role of procurement has never been more challenging; at the same time, the importance of procurement has never been more in the spotlight. Amidst this newfound appreciation for procurement’s role in a crisis, as well as public agencies’ changing mentality towards the business-critical nature of digital tools, now is the time to advocate for the procurement software that will help you streamline your bids and RFPs, drive connection between procurement and the rest of your organization, and access benchmarks and templates to make more data-driven decisions.

For more data and insights on how your North American public procurement peers have responded to COVID-19 and remote work, download your copy of The State of Public Sourcing: COVID-19 Edition report.

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.