“Some agencies have matured their technology to the point where adding mobility and reducing duplicative efforts across the agency would be an ideal next step,” Coss says. She says technology could be used to integrate efforts across an agency to minimize the duplication that generally exists when requests come from field personnel. “Hand-held devices to leverage the data entry from its origin would help expedite processes and reduce duplicative efforts within agencies,” Coss explains.

As agencies acquire new technology, procurement will be tasked with helping facilitate the amending of contracts and adding provisions and language to protect data and ensure that data privacy laws and policies are followed, McLoughlin says.

She describes the process as a monumental task that impacts the time, resources, skills, and patience of all procurement staff, contract managers and legal staff. McLoughlin sums up: “Our district has seen these addendums take upwards of six months to get parties to agree. Data privacy is a sensitive issue and as custodians of data, we have a responsibility to protect it.”

The upcoming election and public procurement

It’s difficult to discuss the future of procurement without discussing the upcoming presidential election. However, no matter the result, McLoughlin says procurement professionals will continue to perform a vital role.

“Regardless of what comes of this election cycle, we as procurement professionals will still be tasked with acquiring goods and services in a fiscally responsible manner. I do believe that our position at the table will be more valuable as budgets and resources grow tighter.”

Coss says that after the 2016 election, procurement pros may be asked to use more private sector strategies. “There could be greater interest in the implementation of category management, for example, to improve government efficiencies and develop a hybrid pool of procurement generalists to specialists,” Coss says.

Power shifts in elections can be dangerous, since many public officials pledge, “No new taxes,” says procurement veteran Hal Good, former director of procurement and contracting in Frederick County Md., and Palm Springs, Calif. (photo at right). 

“In scenarios where revenues are not indexed, this can produce very challenging pressures when the demand for services escalates and there is insufficient revenue to cover provision,” Good says.

This situation, Good explains, gives rise to low-bid mentality as opposed to best value. It also leads to purchase solicitations based on lowest-price technically acceptable vs. innovative long-term solutions.

In this increasingly complex environment, public procurement needs to effectively navigate among senior executives and members of governing boards, Good says. He believes procurement needs to have a "seat at the table" in order to effectively influence policy.

Further, Good says, the chief procurement officer needs to be versed in multiple disciplines, tech savvy, business savvy and be an excellent communicator. “The CPO must put the goals and objectives of the organization first, and procurement must be seen as a valuable partner in pursuing the overall mission.”

Michael Keating (michael.keating@penton.com) is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. He’s written about the government market for USA Today, IndustryWeek, Industry Market Trends and more than 100 other publications.