The United States federal government purchased approximately $790 billion in goods and services from suppliers in 2017. And outsourcing shows no sign of slowing any time soon.
But although procurement is critical to the success of all types of government services, the whole process, from start to finish, takes way too much time in most cases.
This is a huge problem for both the government and taxpayers. When the procurement process stretches out over months or even up to year (which is, unfortunately, not uncommon), the delays can drive up costs and also make it a lot more difficult for government employees and agencies to serve their constituency.
As it stands, government agencies don’t have many of the tools available to address the issue of slow-moving procurement.
However, they can implement a few best practices in order to shorten procurement cycle times.
Here are three tips for speeding up the government procurement process.
One essential tool that helps procurement officials dramatically improve their processes is e-procurement. This application connects vendors with buyers online, replacing the conventional method of paper-intensive purchasing.
E-procurement reduces the time it takes to purchase, because it eliminates the time needed to mail out solicitations. Additionally, it cuts down on paper and advertising costs, and vendors don’t have to go to the procurement office with their proposal to get a timestamp. This helps procurement get bids out faster, quickly receive responses from vendors, and allows for tracking the progress of bids.
Gain a Holistic View of Procurement By Improving Collaboration Across Departments
Government agencies usually have multiple layers of hierarchy and unyielding divisions of labor. During the procurement process, one team might define the statement of work, another may write up the specifications, and another might manage the contracting process. Even though they are part of the same organization, the teams rarely meet in the same room to ensure that everyone understands what product or service is needed, and why.
When internal teams don’t have enough opportunities to align, obscurity can arise. Suppliers could become confused about what the government needs, and submit low-quality quotes as a result of their uncertainty. This can generate additional rounds of delays.
To achieve a more holistic view of procurement, government agencies must communicate more effectively, and gather the right stakeholders, so they can anticipate questions that might come up at critical points during the procurement process.
Through cross-functional collaboration, teams become much more effective in two ways. First, there’s the chance to better understand the overall context for each new acquisition—teams can develop a clear statement of work and consider how purchases could be bundled over time, eliminating common inefficiencies in the process.
They can also clarify roles and responsibilities, align on pricing, finalize timing, determine who has sign-off rights, and clarify which types of decisions should be escalated.
By educating teams on how products or services will ultimately be used and empowering them to make decisions at critical points during the procurement process, negotiations with suppliers can move much more smoothly.
Work with Flexible Suppliers
Since government procurement typically entails bulk purchasing, it’s common for suppliers to require that a minimum number of products be purchased in order to place an order.
However, what if you only need to purchase a few items just to fill a quick need, are a small organization that has no need for large quantities of any product, or simply want to do a small stock-up?
In these cases, it would be extremely helpful to have a list of flexible suppliers on-hand that are able to help you fulfill smaller orders.
At SpecialistID, for instance, we allow for orders of any size. Whether you need just one ID badge holder, a dozen lanyards, or more than 1,000 ID badge buddies, we’ll happily fulfill your order regardless of how many items are in your cart.
We know just how frustrating it can be for suppliers to require you to place unnecessarily large orders in order to take advantage of low prices.
So we decided to do something different, and sell our products with no minimum order. As a government agency, this allows you to order what you need, and pay for nothing more. We value our customers and don't want their money to go to waste.
By taking advantage of e-procurement solutions, gaining a holistic view of procurement by enhancing collaboration across departments, and keeping handy a list of flexible suppliers that can fulfill your orders without you needing to purchase a minimum quantity, government agencies can seamlessly speed up the acquisition process, and generate much greater value for the public sector.
After all, when procurement goes smoothly, not only does it make acquisition easier and much more efficient, it also means that citizens can get the services they need faster. So a more streamlined procurement process is beneficial to us all.