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Rethinking digital transformation in public procurement

March 18, 2021 | Bonfire Interactive

Procurement professional using digital tools on his computer

When COVID-19 forced public procurement teams across North America to go virtual, it set off a chain reaction of quick, knee-jerk technology investments.

Public sector institutions had to attend to urgent health and safety needs. Employees were sent to work from home—some for the first time ever. Procurement teams faced the challenge of rapidly sourcing suppliers amidst global supply chain disruptions. And traditionally in-person activities, like proposal submissions, public bid openings, and evaluations were no longer possible.

Particularly for agencies that hadn’t started (or finished) making the switch to digital platforms and processes, it became necessary to adopt or scale-up digital tools, virtually overnight.

Now, as we enter the second year of COVID-19 with the promise of mass vaccination in sight, many procurement teams find themselves asking: How well are our pandemic-driven digital solutions actually working?

Here’s why your team should be asking the same question, and how you can begin to reevaluate and future-proof your digital transformation approach.

Reconsidering ad-hoc solutions

If your team had to adopt new tools and processes in a short timeframe to deal with the COVID-19 emergency response, there wasn’t much time to strategize about the best approach for digitizing legacy systems and paper-based processes. 

Your goal was to address urgent needs as efficiently as possible using ad-hoc solutions to run essential processes. You may have initiated software trials or pilots, and now it’s time to ask: Do these tools have a place within our tech stack and processes?

For the most part, band-aid fixes won’t be the ideal solution for your agency, nor will they be sustainable over the long term. As McKinsey observes, many procurement departments “are trapped in pilot purgatory, making small investments in select use cases that never scale up to achieve real business impact.” That’s because, rather than driving better results, multiple, disconnected systems tend to introduce these and other problems:

  • Higher costs
  • Increased human error
  • Workflow inefficiencies
  • Data silos
  • Misplaced files
  • Audit trail gaps

If you don’t take the steps to evaluate your current technology and introduce a unified solution, there’s a risk that strung-together tools and processes – and their associated inefficiencies – could become permanent.

Meeting compliance standards

Are there any compliance shortfalls in our digital tools and processes? It’s a critical question public procurement teams need to consider at all times – but especially when evaluating new (and rapidly) adopted solutions.

Despite the emergency measures COVID-19 introduced, public procurement continues to be bound by pre-pandemic compliance standards. Without detailed audit trails to justify evaluation conclusions, you could be forced to reconsider proposals and decisions – a situation that came up multiple times in 2020 by order of the US Government Accountability Office.

When measuring new digital solutions against compliance capabilities, your procurement team should ensure they provide purpose-built tools that ensure state and federal law compliance.

With the right digital platform, you can minimize legal risk and ensure you meet all required standards, without relying on the knowledge and expertise of transitory subject matter experts.

Driving post-pandemic digital strategy

The ultimate question to answer when evaluating your digital tools is: Will they support our post-pandemic digital transformation? 

Although meeting the challenge of COVID-19 has depended on agile decision-making and a make-do approach, going forward, your technology investments will need to support your long-term growth and innovation.

In order to evaluate sustainability over the long haul, it’s worth considering how well your technology helps you do the following:

  • Connect, digitize and manage your operations end to end, from intake to contract management
  • Centralize your project pipeline, so everything is easily accessible in one place
  • Make processes intuitive and easy to use for all internal clients
  • Accelerate, rather than impede, project lifecycles
  • Support decision-making with an airtight audit trail
  • Provide full project transparency and robust reporting

By securing future-proof software solutions that meet the needs we’ve discussed, your procurement team can satisfy your constituents and stakeholders as you chart a path to digital transformation based on efficiency, compliance, and vendor engagement.

Most importantly, a strong digital strategy will ensure your team is equipped to play a central role in driving economic and societal recovery beyond the pandemic.

Procurement teams have a lot to consider when navigating digital transformation during and after COVID-19. Our latest eBook is here to help. Download The Rise of Procurement’s Next Normal today.

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.