Two years ago, Government Technology magazine reported that, “Rigid, procedure-heavy public-sector management makes it nearly impossible to run procurement as fluidly and efficiently as in the private sector.” That doesn’t necessarily remain true today.

True: Public sector budgets are still conservative. Agencies don’t have the luxury of compensating for unexpected cost overruns like private sector organizations. However, creative spending methods are flourishing. Public sector procurement professionals no longer have to operate in a silo thanks to the more comprehensive data and collaborative planning structure provided by technology tools available in 2016.

True: There is a tried and true process to Public Sector procurement that some see as “restrictive.” However, while we must consider past best practices, we must also embrace changes that will better prepare our profession and our public sector agencies to deliver impactful results in an evolving operating environment.

Perhaps more than ever, we’re charged with doing significantly more with significantly less. Now, more than ever, local government agencies are recognizing the limitations of their legacy technology systems.

Organizations are eager to prepare for the future, but hesitant to take action. Even as budgets start to grow, we’re seeing infrastructure growth requirements multiply two or three-fold. We’re trying to eradicate waste and extract greater returns for every dollar spent even though departmental demands often outpace procurement resources. For many, any short-term progress seems grim despite the real work we’ve witnessed across the country.

Despite some perceptions, public procurement professionals are more empowered than ever thanks to improvements in education, training, certification and technology solutions of which all are giving public sector agencies unprecedented ability and knowledge to improve processes, manage contracts and analyze spend while providing increased spending controls.

Many public sector agencies and higher education institutions have not had the luxury of extracting, analyzing and applying real-time data insights to their procurement strategies in the past. Yet today, we have the unique advantage of operating in a manner analogous to private sector procurement. Not in every sense, of course. We have our own set of rules and regulations – and overarching goals of openness, fairness, and transparency.  But today’s procurement professionals have been groomed to support new best practices and procurement standards.

Procurement holds the keys to organizational growth and over-arching value for constituents. Perhaps we always have; we just haven’t had the right resources or seat at the right table to demonstrate our impact on overall program success. The emergence of software solutions, the re-emergence of budget availability, and the prioritization of procurement’s value has given procurement a new purpose and created a perfect storm of opportunity for those ready to make real changes.

Jean Clark, FNIGP, CPPO, C.P.M, CPM is President of NIGP Code and Consulting Services at Periscope Holdings, Inc. She is an NIGP Past President and former State of Arizona Procurement Administrator. Clark's photo is above on the left.

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