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On the podcast: How can procurement be ready for what’s next?

August 23, 2021 | Bonfire Interactive

Arrow pointing to what's next in public procurement

Welcome to the moment in history when “business-as-usual” ceased to hold much meaning for public sector organizations. As the pandemic continues to impact ways of doing business and technology evolves at a rapid pace, change is the only constant.

At the same time, public procurement professionals everywhere are—how do we put this?—tired. Under constant pressure to respond and pivot, agencies are feeling the strain. So, it seems like the perfect time to ask: where do we go from here? If we know change is here to stay, how can public procurement teams make sure they’re ready for anything?

We’re tackling these big questions and more on our latest episode of Inside Public Procurement. We’re joined by special guest Amanda Burton, Contract Buyer at Utah Transit Authority (UTA), who shares her thoughts on how public sector procurement can respond to today’s challenges and innovate for the better.

Keep scrolling for a few hot topics from the show (spoiler alert!), and catch the full episode on our website or wherever you get your podcasts.

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No shortage of supply chain shortages

65% of public sector organizations say they faced supply chain shortages during the pandemic, according to a recent Bonfire survey. For Amanda, even 15 years in the field of procurement couldn’t have prepared her for that challenge.

“There were many failures and many structural issues that have been brought to light due to the pandemic,” Amanda says. “Four or five years ago, most companies had moved to a just-in-time inventory, and with the pandemic, we realized pretty quickly that was not the best way to run a company. It left us very vulnerable.”

Describing a situation that’s no doubt familiar to many of our listeners, Amanda says she and her colleagues scrambled to get the products they needed to keep business running. Particularly challenging was the fact that organizations using the same pool of state and government funds were forced to bid against each other for essential products, such as PPE, causing prices to become even more inflated.

“I think that was a big eye-opener for a lot of us to kind of get out of the norm. It showed me personally how important vendor relationships are. Suddenly those mom and pop shops that I kind of overlooked a little bit were my main go-tos.”

In our conversation, Amanda dives into the lessons she learned from ongoing supply chain shortages, including identifying and dealing with fraudsters, sourcing in-demand products, handling shipping delays, and maintaining strong vendor relationships.

“Get out of the norm” to improve procurement

Evolving away from traditional ways of doing business has been necessary during the pandemic, but Amanda says it’s mostly been a good thing. Seeing how organizations and vendors pivoted to help one another and solve critical challenges is a trend she hopes will prevail long after the pandemic. And, for the most part, that ability to adapt has been driven by innovation.

“Innovation is very important in the world of procurement. Many times vendors come to us with new ideas… And if we listen with a non-judgemental ear, we’re able to push ideas to the forefront and hopefully better our processes.”

It’s easy to focus on other priorities or “get comfortable with current suppliers” and ways of doing things in procurement, but Amanda says making a conscious effort to find efficiencies and explore new solutions is one of the main ways that procurement can deliver value.

“I just worry that business-as-usual isn’t always best and we need to continue looking outside and looking for opportunity, and that’s what I try to do all the time. And if you do that there will be failures… But there are definitely wins too.”

Amanda shares her own experience driving process improvements at UTA that made it faster and easier for transit mechanics to access the parts they needed for critical repairs. After overcoming months and months of resistance, procurement’s solution is now dramatically cutting downtime and improving efficiency.

Discover even more on the podcast

The pandemic has transformed ways of doing business for good. And Amanda’s insights offer great inspiration for every procurement professional feeling overwhelmed by the rapid pace of change in today’s world.

Tune into our next episode to hear more from our conversation, including Amanda’s take on bridging the generational gap in procurement and dealing with the ever-present challenge of funding in the public sector.

Hungry for more tips, insights, and inspiration you can use to level up your procurement strategy? Head over to our website, or find Inside Public Procurement on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts!

About the author

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Bonfire Interactive

Bonfire helps public procurement teams reach better sourcing outcomes through an experience that’s blazingly fast, powered by peer insights, and so easy to use—vendors love it just as much as buyers do.