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Is your sourcing strategy remote work-ready?

March 19, 2020 | Emily Lambert

remote work headset and computer equipment

We won’t beat around the bush—it’s no secret that public procurement teams are under more pressure than ever before. With more and more organizations mandating remote work as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve in North America and around the world, procurement teams are facing new and uncertain challenges.

This unforeseen and ever-evolving climate we find ourselves in requires urgent procurements that address public health and safety. Not only are you faced with these urgent and unexpected procurement needs, but maybe some of your critical evaluators aren’t even in the office. When getting vendor documents and evaluation scorecards in the hands of stakeholders is next to impossible, the risks of project delays or poor procurement compliance only increase.

And it’s more critical than ever that your procurement team meets project deadlines. The citizens that you’re serving, whether you work for a city, a school, or a hospital, are directly impacted by how fast-acting your procurement process is. Our society relies on the support of the public sector, especially in trying times like these. 

As more and more teams transition to remote procurement, we are committed to ensuring that the citizens you serve get access to the goods and services they need because of on-track and fast-acting procurement timelines. That’s why Bonfire has launched an Emergency Response Program, offering free access to the Bonfire Strategic Sourcing software for new users.

With that in mind, we hope that this blog post can provide you with the toolkit you need to minimize disruptions as you prepare to transition to remote procurement.

Collaborate remotely by bringing sourcing online

If there’s one department that can’t afford to slow down in times like these, it’s procurement. Not only are you procuring critical supplies and services—such as hand sanitizer dispensers, or contracted professional services to take on the work of out-of-office staff—but so much of our already fragile economy depends on procurement running business-as-usual. When public procurement slows down, contracts don’t get signed, and vendors dependent on those contracts struggle to remain in business—possibly resulting in job losses or closing shop. In times like these, there is a lot riding on the shoulders of public procurement teams to keep your local and national economies from reaching a stand-still. 

That’s a lot of pressure—and it’s only amplified when critical buyers and evaluators aren’t in the office, or your organization mandates a work-from-home policy. 

Manual, paper-based processes will likely cause major delays in your procurement processes. Disseminating documents to out-of-office staff is a logistical challenge, and receiving shipments of vendor proposals is out of the question when your office is shut-down. 

To prepare your sourcing strategy for the potential reality of remote work, it may be time to bring all your procurement activities online. And we don’t mean an online spreadsheet, where different iterations and revisions are hard to track and conversations still have to happen over back-and-forth emails.

Investing in online sourcing software (or accessing Bonfire for free at this time) brings all of your sourcing activities online, centralizing all necessary documents and evaluation processes and making them accessible from anywhere. Tools designed for collaboration and communication can reduce your bid and RFP evaluation times significantly by minimizing the number of evaluation meetings you need to get procurement and stakeholders on the same page. In times like these, a fast-acting procurement process is mission-critical to meeting your agency’s needs.

Ease vendor stress with online submission

With everything going on at your agency, it’s easy to allow a focus on vendor relationships to fall through the cracks. But vendors are experiencing a lot of anxiety right now, too. Vendors are thinking, will my contracts be signed? Will there be someone at the procurement office to receive my paper submissions? Is it worth it to put so much time, effort, and resources into an intensive RFP when I’m already short-staffed?

The climate of uncertainty that we’re in presents a unique opportunity to strengthen your vendor relationships like never before. 

Travel and delivery services are so uncertain right now, causing a lot of stress for vendors who depend on these services to meet bid and RFP solicitation deadlines. By bringing your bid and RFP submission online, vendors no longer have to factor in shipping times as they respond to already urgent solicitations. With many vendors already short-staffed, the extra submission time could be game-changing in ensuring more vendors bid, increasing your vendor competition and securing better value for the goods or services you’re acquiring. 

Leverage other remote work software 

At Bonfire, we’ve heard a lot of stories from our public procurement clients on how they’ve leveraged other remote work software to augment their remote procurement capabilities. 

If you have previously opened vendor bids in a physical meeting place, there are online meeting and webinar software—like Zoom or GoToWebinar—that can enable you to continue bid openings as per usual, regardless of attendees’ physical locations. 

Although collaboration tools within eSourcing platforms help limit meetings, when those consensus meetings do need to take place in-person, you can leverage those same online meeting tools to keep everyone aligned and keep projects on track.

These are undoubtedly uncertain times that we’re in, and the pressure on procurement to be fast-acting and aligned with stakeholders to serve the urgent needs of your agency is greater than ever. Perhaps on the positive side of all this, as organizations urgently switch to remote procurement as health officials promote social distancing to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 outbreak, is that we will have a lot of lessons learned as we enter a future where remote work progressively becomes the norm, even in the public sector. 

We understand that moving your strategic sourcing processes online is no small task, especially in the midst of a global health crisis that is directly impacting your agency and the citizens you serve. We’re here to help. Bonfire brings procurement online to keep critical projects on track. Find out more about our program to enable access to the Bonfire Strategic Sourcing platform for free.

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.