Addressing public sector procurement challenges
The pandemic has been an important catalyst in accelerating the much-needed shift towards digitalised procurement solutions. In fact, a global survey of procurement specialists found 59% of countries cited a lack of electronic or digital procurement systems as the biggest constraint when the pandemic hit.
This is even more critical for those in the public sector, where workers are often dispersed and forced to rely on legacy equipment or resources to maintain processes and get work done at a rapid pace. These processes are now, more than ever, being put in the spotlight as businesses are being forced to change their practices to bounce back from the pandemic.
It’s important to first understand that a successful procurement process isn’t just about increasing digitisation or technology, but rather about streamlining and better managing the entire process. Some businesses might require a configurable UI that adapts to the needs of their business workflows, where others might need a more user-friendly platform to enable higher adoption rates through ease of use, or a high degree of configurability to align with rapid changes in the business processes due to market dynamics.
As the country, at both federal, state and local levels, looks to recover quickly, procurement in the public sector has an important role to play. A recent key infrastructure report called for significant reforms to public sector procurement practices and culture, including the creation of nationally consistent contract forms and a decision-making tool.
For a number of government agencies across Australia, transforming procurement functions in line with a digital future and aligned with the public procurement policies and processes is possible thanks to a centralised procurement platform that meant they were better equipped to adjust to challenges.
What do these technologies — and responding to the public sector’s procurement needs in the wake of a global pandemic — look like in action?
Auditing and accuracy
The dispersed nature of public sector work means that employees are often far away from their central office but having to make decisions or provide immediate updates. These decisions, and surrounding activities, are often under scrutiny as part of auditing processes.
The pandemic, and the way it forced so many to work in isolation, emphasised the need to work effectively, remotely, as well as the need for accurate auditing. More than ever, the new way of working has emphasised the need for decentralised technology that can be individually adapted to allow team members to work efficiently, accurately and in real time.
By ensuring compliance within the process itself, team members eliminate any issues arising from inaccurate reporting or activity, providing a much smoother, and less fraught, auditing process. With a decentralised procurement tool, team members are empowered to not only get the work done, but complete it in an efficient way with little to no lag.
Robust reporting and analytics capabilities
Effective solutions need to offer visually rich, interactive dashboards out of the box along with automatic updates. They need to capture supplier and process KPIs, which are important for process benchmarking and continuous process improvement. In today’s modern systems a lot of data is being generated. Its management means leveraging structured and unstructured data from any source for flexible ad hoc report building — this is a key to remaining ahead in the game.
Embedded business intelligence software lets customers leverage their data with contract risk analysis, intelligent virtual assistants that anticipate needs and recommendation engines that act based on user preferences.
Achieving accuracy and avoiding auditing issues means moving on from outdated legacy systems and manual processes for reporting and storing information. This also includes moving away from the silos that are sometimes created and embracing a cloud-based approach that brings all team members and processes together.
Unfortunately, even now, legacy systems are continuing to be employed — not because they get the job done well, but because they ‘get the job done well enough’. However, public sector organisations can no longer lag in the need for newer technology, especially when both the business and the national landscape have shifted so much over the past two years.
Spurred by COVID-19, there has been a sprint towards new technology adoption across multiple sectors, creating impressive new solutions and new ways of working. This is not the time for the public sector to fall behind — especially as investment into back-office processes delivers dividends.
Moving from legacy systems is no longer a question of if, but when. The dividends, in cost and time savings, as well as increased efficiency, are proven across businesses that have made the change and adopted new technology. Finding the balance of accuracy, team empowerment and new technology adoption is well within reach for public sector procurement organisations.
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