Procurement Process in Need of a Refresh? These Best Practices Could Help
Many procurement leaders in the public sector have made strides—big strides—in the last several years to streamline and automate their processes. Using cutting edge software, they’ve worked to lighten the overall burden on vendors, other departments, and themselves.
But there is still a lot of work to do. According to our 2023 State of Local Government Survey, procurement is still a source of pain for many:
- 39% of other departments are only somewhat or not at all satisfied with the procurement process.
- 38% of respondents report that it takes 45 days or more from purchase request to released solicitation—with 18% reporting delays of over 60 days.
The best part of our job is working with procurement experts, like yourself, and learning how they better purchasing in their organizations. Then, we have the opportunity to collect these insights and share them far and wide.
From solicitation development to contract management and everything in between, we’ve compiled the latest insights from procurement leaders across this country. Here are a few best practices straight from procurement leaders with decades of experience.
Key Procurement Best Practices
These best practices have been divided into two categories—one focused on compliance and one focused on removing hurdles in your procurement process.
Keep reading to see the guidance for each one.
The Cure to Compliance Headaches
When you have a lot of rules to follow—and enforce—among other department members, it can be hard to make sure everyone is compliant.
Here are some best practices to help you ensure compliance in your procurement process:
- Trainings help. Initial trainings and refresher trainings are a good way to ensure people understand the rules and comply with them. Every time something is changed in the process, this is a potential opportunity for a training. You may hear a little grumbling, but that grumbling is often worth the tradeoff for getting people to comply with the rules the first time they make a purchase request.
- Frontload people management. Although you may not have thought managing other people—especially those you don’t actually manage—wouldn’t be part of your job in procurement, it actually is. Instead of resisting this, lean into it. How can you ensure others push things forward? How can you help them keep the rules top of mind?
- Remind people of the big picture. It can be helpful to remind people that their expertise is needed to make the right procurement decision. Occasionally, it can also be helpful to remind people that everything they’re doing in the procurement process could be public record, and could potentially be a court document one day. This reminder can help some be more thoughtful in their writing or scoring on evaluations—but again, this tactic should be used sparingly.
- Make it easy. People are busy. The easier you can make things on them, the more likely they are to comply. One way to do this is by using software to cut out paperwork—see the next bullet for more on this point.
- The right software can help. Software designed for procurement can provide structure, workflows, and automation that enforce faster, objective, compliant, and consistent evaluation processes. The right procurement software allows you to get rid of paper scorecards and manual actions, helping reduce finger-pointing and automating bid tabulations. By providing nudges and not allowing people opt out of submitting mandatory information, either as vendors or as evaluators, procurement software can be a powerful workforce multiplier in managing others in the process toward compliance. But beware—some software options will only help with part of the procurement process, keeping you reliant on paper processes and presenting a Band-Aid instead of a full solution.
Related: The 7 Sins of Procurement
Remove the Hurdles Before You Hit Them
Compliance is about following the rules. But there are also ways you can make the entire procurement experience easier for the other departments involved that are about improving the process, not about rule following.
By making the process better you will also be helping improve compliancy, since people will be more engaged and willing to adhere to policies when they have a sense of teamwork.
Here is some guidance to streamlining the process in your organization:
- Meet with the requestor. It can be helpful to meet with the person who made the purchase request to define a timeline, scope of need, and cover the evaluation process. If needed, schedule more department meetings to help push things forward.
- Define responsibilities. Defining the role each party will play and reminding stakeholders that everyone has the same objective can help speed up the entire process.
- Reminders. Build reminders and nudges into your process to make sure things don’t get bottlenecked with a single person. Using a software solution can automate this process, taking it off your plate.
- Get rid of paper. Paper slows everything down, since it only exists in one place at one time, making it impossible for multiple stakeholders to push things forward at the same time. It can also get lost or destroyed, requires physical storage, and makes it almost impossible to be transparent regarding the status of a request or other points of interest in the procurement process. Moving your procurement system to an online platform can help you completely eliminate the need for paper, file folders, and 3-ring binders in procurement, making everyone involved more efficient and more involved in the process.
At a time when population sizes are growing while local government staff sizes stay the same, online procurement software like OpenGov Procurement is acting as a workforce multiplier.
At OpenGov, we have helped procurement systems go 100% paperless and spend 75% less time writing RFPs, bids, and dealing with the other manual steps that come with paper documentation.
Learn more about OpenGov Procurement now