Automation and simplification can help compensate for expected staff losses
In the coming years, an increasing number of governmentand procurement professionals will be nearing retirement age. According to the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing, 16 percent of its members are more than 60 years old, and 41 percent are between the ages of 50-59. The retirement wave is accompanied by an increased demand for efficiency and performance from state and local government procurement programs as a result of the budget crisis.
The retirement surge has profound consequences on many state and local government procurement organizations. Procurement professionals with a long track record, institutional knowledge of best practices and hard-earned experience will leave behind an organization in need. Unless officials plan now, they will be unable to transfer that knowledge to a new generation of professionals and be confident that a lifetime of work is left in good hands.
Today's public procurement professionals encounter more complexity and are taking on a more critical role in organizational performance. The following tips will help public sector procurement departments more successfully prepare for the challenges of 2011 and beyond.
Quantify the operational challenge. For example, it is not unrealistic that government organizations will be faced with planning for 30 percent more transactions with 50 percent less people in five years' time. Real goals create urgency and willingness to address the problem in creative and innovative ways.
Build toward a multi-generational/multi-experienced team. With training budgets at an all-time low, cross pollination of knowledge is vital in creating an effective work force. One well-trained employee is worth her or his weight in gold.
Simplify processes and procedures. A difficult procurement process requires time, expertise and knowledge. If you can simplify the process, you have less risk when people retire and take their hard-earned experience with them. Your best people will likely be more than happy to help simplify their jobs!
Encourage dialogue with those who have left the workforce. One knowledgeable ex-employee can help your procurement program immeasurably.
Automate, Automate, Automate. Invest in technology early and often to get out of the transactional work that takes so much time. Technology can standardize processes, move work from the procurement desk to the actual consumer's desk and free the procurement professional to become far more productive. To meet the expectations of customers in government agencies effectively, the public sector is increasingly turning to technology to improve efficiencies and cut costs. The systems enable a broader range of users to access the knowledge of senior professionals and counteract the effects of "brain drain."
The time is now to plan for radically leaner departments and, more importantly, to focus on succession planning on a grand scale. To avoid deterioration of internal and external service levels, ensure proper procurement processes and remain effective in reducing government spend, it is more critical than ever for government organizations and agencies to focus on people.
Eric Zoetmulder is director of product marketing for the public sector at SciQuest, Inc. More information is available at www.sciquest.com.
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