Technology & Tools
Procurement Technology: Public Sector Still Absent from the Table

It’s Procurement Technology month over on our Spend Matters UK site, and we’ve had lots of interesting technology-related articles going up, including Cloud Puts Spotlight on Contract Management, from Software Europe, talking about how and why employees manage to procure services in a manner that often goes unnoticed by procurement teams; Why Is So Much ICT Spend Missing From Contracts Finder? from Innopsis, on how about two-thirds of government spend does not appear to be advertised on the public sector portal; and much more to come this week.

He recently attended the Spend Matters/ISM Global Procurement Technology Summit and noted how much of the innovation happening in the procurement technology space is attributed to the private sector, in fact, government seemed to be lacking in representation. This confirmed Raj’s longstanding suspicion that public bodies seem to be “an absent participant when it comes to leveraging technology to improve procurement and acquisition.”

He writes: “While private sector companies such as BravoSolution, Coupa, and Tamr invest billions to innovate and create commercial technologies that streamline and improve the procurement process, the federal government (especially) and local governments (to some degree) continue to lag way behind, choosing to build custom applications and spending hundreds of millions in the process.”

He talks about the technologies he witnessed at the event, mostly AI and machine learning, optimisation tools and online shopping platforms — you can read more on that in his article. But he emphasises that these are just highlights “There’s a lot more happening in the procurement technology space and it iscritical that the public sector make it a priority to explore and leverage commercial technologies to the maximum intent.” He goes on to examine what this means for the public sector procurement. He urges:

  • “Stop building custom solutions. The private sector is doing the job of investing hundreds of millions of dollars in solutions. There is significant innovation in the space. The public sector at a minimum should explore commercial options before building custom.
  • Understand and prioritize commercial procurement technologies. The public sector should invest in better understanding the entire procurement technology space and prioritizing potential solutions that can address the biggest needs.
  • Create pilots and test multiple solutions. Governments should pilot different solutions which can be done quickly and at a very low cost, without investing hundreds of millions of dollars.  There is already a strong movement afoot by the US Digital Service, 18F and others to use pilots and this is another space that offers significant opportunity.”

Of course there are many strong initiatives, projects and innovation promotions going on in Europe: Cloud for Europe, Procurement of Innovation Platform, eGovernment to improve public services, being just a few (you read about them regularly on this site) — but the pace in innovative technologies is picking up, and local government in particular doesn’t seem to have the legs (or the willingness)  to keep up. Do read Raj’s whole article over on Public Spend Forum.