The government faces unique challenges in how it acquires goods and services and ensures transparency to meet constituents’ needs. Potential issues include risk in delivering the right goods and services on time, executing within budget, changing regulations or priorities, decreasing public confidence in the way agencies spend money, and legacy technology and processes that don’t support the strategic and innovative focus of today’s government.
At the same time, agency leaders are looking for more innovative ideas and technology solutions, and a procurement platform and acquisition process that can support a less rigid and more agile acquisition approach and process.
Finally, the focus on modernization is a priority at government’s highest levels. The President’s Management Agenda calls for improving management of major acquisitions, improving outcomes through IT spending transparency and creating cost savings through category management.
But the hard truth is that most agencies face a procurement landscape of decades-old systems.
“Those technologies solved the problems they needed to at the time,” said Michael Arthur, Federal Business Development Leader at Ivalua. “But today, when agencies need more tailored solutions, their current technologies and processes don’t have the configurability or the flexibility to change.”
By and large, agencies recognize the need to change and the value of moving to a new model of procurement, but the challenges of modernizing procurement and moving to an agile acquisition process are incredibly real.
Legacy IT is a massive hurdle; many government entities have faced the challenge of either paying high costs to maintain and grow legacy platforms or letting them reach the end of their life as demands increase. Most federal agencies still work off of acquisition strategies and processes that are antiquated and inefficient because of the lack of supporting technology offerings. Plenty of current strategies involve manual processes and are not data-driven, intelligent or predictive to provide the analytical insight required to move to an agile acquisition process.
Additionally, poor user design of existing platforms and an inability to share data across multiple sources — so that acquisition professionals can see all relevant data — hamper the ability to provide actionable insights throughout the end-to-end acquisition lifecycle.
“There’s no central repository for that data in most systems,” said Mike Cook, Head of Public Sector at Ivalua. “These sorts of technology constraints are limiting real-time decision support and the value creation required to support the shift to agile acquisition.”
There is a path forward, however, that provides governments with more adaptable and flexible procurement solutions.
The Solution: An Agile Procurement Platform to Enable Innovative Solutions
By moving to a collaborative and flexible procurement solution, agencies can enable more efficient processes, reduce risk, increase compliance and facilitate digital transformation and modernization efforts.
A modern procurement solution can satisfy the diverse needs of contract officers, suppliers and constituents. Some of the defining capabilities of a modern system are:
- The use of intelligent workflow, minimizing paper-based processes and reducing errors and redundant work
- Increased automation, reducing the cost per transaction, acquisition cycle time and shifting to an exception-based approach
- Creation of collaboration networks that provide contract officers and suppliers with visibility into all elements of their joint value chains
- Improved transparency through presenting data contextually to improve decision-making for all users by providing easy access to relevant insights
A procurement platform purpose-built for government enables organizations to be more responsive to legislative, regulatory and policy changes, and to have full transparency throughout the acquisition lifecycle. A modern platform enables agencies to use predictive risk indicators, enabling proactive mitigation and realtime monitoring.
“As the government moves to a more iterative acquisition process, their procurement platform needs to be flexible enough to support those agile processes while still enforcing the proper controls,” Cook said. “The Ivalua solution provides that end-to-end capability, reducing the need for multiple integrations or handoffs through the process.”
This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent report, “The Journey to Agile Acquisition.” Download the full report here.