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Government Procurement Lacks Agility, Transparency, Survey Finds

Electronic procurement and the rise of a B2C-like shopping experience for corporate buyers has turned the buying process into a strategic function for many organizations. But for others, simply digitizing the procurement process in the first place remains a challenge. Government procurement is struggling to streamline and automate many tasks, forcing some executives to feel overworked, new research finds.

In a survey released last month from business-to-government (B2G) technology company Onvia, nearly 40 percent of buyers in the public sector say they feel overworked, with many reporting that it’s a struggle to find the time needed to research and author bids and requests for proposal.

The report, “Survey of Government Procurement Professionals,” found a 4 percent increase in the number of government buyers that say they feel overworked; Onvia attributed this trend to a lack of staffing resources and a rising demand that these professionals “do more with less.”

That conclusion is part of a broader challenge for buy-side entities in both the private and public sector to enhance their procurement abilities.

According to SpendEdge, for instance, “eProcurement is still a distant dream for several businesses.”

The procurement company released new analysis this month that explores both the benefits of electronic procurement and the hurdles that organizations continue to face to integrate eProcurement. Published on its blog, the analysis, “The New Procurement Trend on the Block: eProcurement,” found that while there are obvious advantages to implementing eProcurement technologies and practices, for many organizations, a lack of flexibility and an inability to adapt are holding them back.

Procurement professionals are the key to making the leap to eProcurement.

“The most important factor for the success of an eProcurement system is the organization’s employees,” the blog post said. “On several occasions, it is the employees or the staff that perceive it as complex, unwieldy and slow to respond, with an additional fear that automation will render them jobless. But on the contrary, embracing eProcurement systems will only shift their role from a person who spends money to someone who contributes in generating income.”

But according to Onvia, a lack of staff resources means government procurement entities may not have the team with the necessary education and qualifications to promote more efficient eProcurement practices.

In its report, Onvia launched the Procurement Performance Index, a measurement that assesses agility, customer service and a reputation for integrity and transparency in the buying process among government entities. That Procurement Performance Index dropped from 76.4 in 2016 to 72.6 this year, researchers said, with all three of these components experiencing declines — the biggest of which occurred in the area of agility.

“The PPI measures the overall performance of state and local government agencies in providing timely and trustworthy purchasing services,” explained B2G Market Analyst Paul Irby in a statement that announced the news. “This year’s results show a clear decline in the procurement performance among agencies, a result that is driven by resourcing challenges and time constraints among buyers.

“Companies pursuing government contracts should interpret these findings as an opportunity to proactively connect with buyers, better understand their needs and form trusted partnerships that help achieve agency goals,” Irby continued.

The top concern professionals surveyed at state and local government entities reported having was a lack of time to prepare and plan for bids/RFPs, a unique challenge to government procurement that the private sector doesn’t experience. But other challenges, like a lack of specific knowledge on the items they need to procure, are also commonplace, the report found.

Onvia found several correlations for government groups that are most successful in their procurement strategies. They include an increase in funding for procurement teams, a greater level of engagement between stakeholders, more efficient purchasing methods and an increased adoption of eProcurement.

“Smart governments recognize that strategic investments in their procurement teams translate into more value for the citizens they serve,” said Onvia Exchange Director Ben Vaught in a statement. “Procurement officers must lead the way in identifying modern tools to increase their productivity.”

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