We recently published a new Spend Matters briefing paper, titled Building Supplier Involvement in Public Procurement. It is sponsored by Vortal, the leading public sector focused eProcurement solution provider. But like everything we publish, it is written from an independent and unbiased perspective – and you can download it here, free on registration.
Clearly, eProcurement in the public sector across Europe is becoming more prevalent, and this will continue as the mandate from the Commission pushes all contracting authorities to use electronic processes. However, the theme of this paper is that many buyers do not consider the suppliers’ perspectives when choosing or operating eProcurement systems. Yet if suppliers find systems unfriendly to use and buyers difficult to work with, they may choose not to bid for contracts, and the buyer will suffer from a less dynamic and capable pool of potential suppliers.
In the last extract from the paper which we published here, we talked about the analogy of “fishing” in terms of how many buyers look for suppliers. We argued that it is not enough to just cast your net into the sea of potential suppliers and hope a few swim in! Contracting authorities need to be proactive in terms of developing their universe of potential and actual suppliers if they are going to achieve best vale for money from that supply base.
Today’s extract from the paper gets into the heart of the matter – how we can attract suppliers by looking at our own processes and technology in particular from the suppliers’ viewpoint. We hope you find this thought-provoking – but do download the full paper here.
How Do We Improve Matters from a Supplier’s Perspective?
If we acknowledge that there are opportunities here to improve the manner in which we work with our supplier universe, then what can Contracting Authorities do in practice? This is particularly important for organisations where a significant number of their suppliers and potential suppliers aren’t expert or perhaps even familiar with eProcurement technology.
In some countries and markets, certain suppliers or groups of suppliers may be in danger of being left behind as more and more public Contracting Authorities start using eProcurement. This is in a sense a “change management” requirement; buyers need to help suppliers make the transition where necessary from paper based processes to electronic. The following points summarise some of the steps that can be taken.
– Advertising and communicating opportunities openly and clearly so as many potential suppliers are informed of opportunities. That can be through local portals and electronic supplier networks, as well as through formal OJEU processes and conventional advertising.
– Simplifying the process for suppliers to onboard and register for the eProcurement platform and any specific competition. This does not mean just having a simple process through which the supplier can transmit basic information; it requires help to be available for suppliers, and training where necessary and appropriate.
– Making sure eProcurement systems are generally easy to use, are well supported and updated regularly. This applies through the whole tendering process, and the best eProcurement platforms and providers support the supplier community through services such as call centres, training sessions, education and information provision.
– Designing competitive processes that are fair and are appropriate to the scale and importance of the contract. For instance, that means avoiding unduly complex pre-qualification processes, and taking care not to exclude suppliers early in the process for unimportant matters.
– Developing a community of suppliers, which ideally can be used by a number of contracting authorities. That can provide good access for other buyers, for instance if they are buying unfamiliar goods and services. (Some solution providers take this further and offer services to suppliers that can help them develop their understanding of public procurement and increase their own chances of winning contracts).
This wider “community management” is becoming a feature in certain countries and for some eProcurement providers. The results are demonstrating how this can increase competition, create more dynamic markets, and ultimately help Authorities find better suppliers and better value.