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K-12 procurement teams discuss vendor diversity, BAFO strategies, and Bonfire tips at virtual meet-up

June 22, 2021 | Emily Lambert

Whether it’s been sourcing laptops so students can do school online, adjusting to welcoming students back to school safely, or adapting to new vendor diversity legislation, K-12 procurement teams have had a lot on their plate over the past year. At Bonfire, we’ve seen these challenges first-hand with the 90+ K-12 school districts we work with across 49 states and provinces. That’s why we decided to bring K-12 Bonfire users together for a virtual user-meetup, providing a space for procurement professionals to share peer insights and best practices. 

From June 15-17, attendees had the opportunity to hear from fellow K-12 procurement teams and Bonfire experts to unlock new ways to use the platform to address their challenges and needs, and get a sneak peek into new product features to come. Here’s an insider look into what attendees took away. 

Day 1: Panel and Roundtable

Our CEO Omar Salaymeh kicked off our user meet-up with some opening remarks that included a look back on procurement in 2020, as well as highlighting new Bonfire features coming in 2021—including new DBE tracking functionality, subcontractor visibility, access to RFP documents, and our latest approvals feature. Omar then gave a high-level view of the state of K-12 procurement today by diving into some stats from the Bonfire database. 

Slide from Bonfire K-12 meet-up showing project activity across K-12 clients

Then, we jumped into the panel “Procurement in 2021: Navigating Vendor Diversity & Best and Final Strategies.” The panel featured Kim Murphy at Gwinnett County Public Schools, Carrie Roberts at Atlanta Public Schools, and Benjamin Mora at Harlandale Independent School District.

Given new legislation that will make vendor diversity an increasing priority for many school districts, for the first half of this discussion, panelists shared how they use Bonfire to increase and track their vendor diversity efforts. For instance, Kim at Gwinnett County Public Schools started to track vendor records and local vendors in Bonfire, using certificate submissions in order to verify these registered vendors. Carrie at Atlanta Public Schools talked about how her organization focused on education and outreach to both the community and their internal clients in order to expose opportunities to more minority-owned and small businesses. For example, they saw a trend where minority vendors struggled with filling out the registration forms properly, so they developed joint education sessions with a practice project in Bonfire to show them how to do it. 

The second half of the panel discussion focused on Best and Final Offer (BAFO) strategies. A quick poll of the session attendees found that the majority (78%) use BAFO strategies on select opportunities. The consensus among the panelists is that BAFOs are really only effective if you are able to bring in a large enough pool of vendors, which is where Bonfire comes in. “Bonfire democratizes the process with instant communication to the vendors and your evaluators,” said Benjamin from Harlandale Independent School District. Other benefits that the Bonfire product brings to BAFOs, according to panelists, include the clear scoring insight that helps guide conversations with suppliers, the transparency it provides for executives, and Bonfire’s latest approvals feature. 

Day 2: Peer-led Toolkit Session

This interactive workshop was led by Wes Albinger, Procurement Coordinator for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). Wes provided an in-depth look at the value Bonfire has been able to provide the school district in the past year. 

Until early 2020, MPS used a strictly paper process, which became problematic with the district’s high volume of projects and internal/external scrutiny. Since implementing Bonfire…

  • MPS has been able to expand their use of Bonfire to include templates, multi-category decisions, questionnaires, and intake. 
  • Reviewers have consistently given positive feedback on Bonfire’s ease-of-use. MPS’s goal is to minimize evaluators’ effort and attention by only assigning relevant criteria to review, so that they can get back to their day jobs.
  • MPS has been able to incrementally add on functionality and use Bonfire according to their evolving comfort level and familiarity.

Wes ended his session by giving attendees an inside look into how MPS uses templates to save time and effort. 

Day 3: Product Day

On day 3, the Bonfire Product team walked users through the upcoming product roadmap, focusing on what was recently released, what’s in development, and what’s to come in the future. Bonfire’s latest feature releases—Approvals and Supplier Diversity—sparked lots of questions from users, who wanted to see the new product features in action. 

This user meet-up day consisted of two feedback sessions. In the first session, groups discussed how they start researching and leveraging their network to start projects on the right foot. In the second session, groups focused on how they start off projects and how they could use templates within Bonfire to reach more effective outcomes. Many users were embracing templates or had plans to build template programs in the near future. 

Overall, it was a fantastic week full of shared client insight, networking, and a look into K-12 procurement as we head into the second half of 2021. If you are a Bonfire user in academia, healthcare, utilities, or transit, keep an eye on your inbox—more info on upcoming user meet-ups for those segments is coming soon!

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.