Monday Feb 06, 2023

Trends for the future: Public procurement professionals adapt to the changing and challenging times ahead – American City & County


This article originally appeared in the Q4 issue of Government Procurement.

The recent pandemic demonstrated the importance of supply chain management, as well as the need for flexibility in adapting to changing demands and inventory. Public procurement teams rose to the challenge of the pandemic by leveraging their knowledge, partnerships with suppliers and collaboration across the profession, while maintaining core values of transparency and ethical practices.

On the other side of the procurement table, suppliers responded with changes of their own. Bringing in subject matter experts, additional sourcing resources and consultative services, they expanded beyond their contract offering with newly value-added features. The relationships between suppliers and procurement teams were strengthened to successfully address the non-stop influx of challenges.

Automation takes huge leap forward
Governments often rely on internal proprietary systems or manual, paper-intensive processes. However, when teams were forced to move to off-site locations during the pandemic, automation took a huge leap forward.

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, known as CapMetro, is a public transportation provider, operating bus services and a commuter rail system in Austin and suburbs in Travis and Williamson, Texas. Maintaining 2,300 bus stops across 83 routes; 17 Park & Rides/transit centers, nine commuter rail stations, electric trains, hundreds of paratransit vehicles and Metrobuses, there is a pressing demand to keep operations in constant motion.

In 2018, all bid opportunities were published manually, and interactions were conducted via mail and email exchanges, creating a lengthy paper process. The Authority began a significant push toward automation, by contracting with PlanetBids, a nationally recognized eProcurement company tailored toward government procurement.

Fast forward to 2020, when the remaining unautomated portion became a higher priority. Muhammad Abdullah, CapMetro’s senior director notes, “when our workforce transferred to off-site environments, our entire process needed to quickly move to 100 percent electronic.” Working with Planetbids on a fast-tracked implementation plan, CapMetro’s needs were quickly addressed.

Julia A. Wilkes, executive assistant for CapMetro’s procurement department shares, “procurement actually became busier while telecommuting, as procurement’s role became critical to the Authority’s emergency response.” Alan Zavian, co-founder of PlanetBids concurs, “with an almost overnight transition to remote working environments, our team had to quickly respond by helping multiple public agencies stay productive. Many discovered that a cloud-based platform, available 24/7 and from any location, quickly solved many of their challenges. We envision the use of eProcurement systems growing over the next few years.”

Data security needs strengthening
Working in government office with a maintained network makes it easy to control access. However, keeping the IT environment secure within a decentralized working environment becomes a bigger undertaking. According to Sharp Corp., a designer and manufacturer of electronic products, the requirement to update procedures, security protocol and maintain confidential data will be an increasing future challenge. One way to ensure consistency is to equip employees with specified equipment with encrypted hard drives—as well internet endpoint protection to defend against intrusion and cyberattacks.

Unfortunately, home users do not always use best practices when configuring their Wi-Fi networks where default passwords are not changed, firmware isn’t updated and important settings are ignored. Shane Coffey writes in Sharp’s The Simply Smarter Blog, “one of the first steps for teleworking is to disable the ability to automatically add new devices in a security-first configuration. A correctly provisioned router will add a layer of protection to government data by protecting not only the individual device, but the entire network, as a hacker may gain access through …….


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