How Local Governments Can Win with Procurement

ICMA's chief technology and innovation officer provides four easy ways local governments can win in the grand adventure we call procurement.

BLOG POST | Aug 23, 2018
By Xavier Hughes

by Xavier Hughes, chief technology and innovation officer, ICMA

RFIs, RFPs, RFQs, BPAs, IDIQs, GWACs, MACs, sole source, schedules. . . so many options, so many complexities and requirements, and so little time.

I’ll be frank with you, procurement is my least favorite thing to work on but a necessary part of our operations and day-to-day activities. On that end, I tend to focus less on the details and more on the vision, mission, and things that I need to accomplish through our procurement strategies and mechanisms.

Now let me share my approach to procurement.

I believe in procurement exercises that are driven by competition, honesty, simplicity, flexibility, and agility; the goal here is to be future proof. I believe in try before you buy. You would never buy a shirt from a brand that you have never tried on, would you?

I believe in procurement submission evaluations that are based on real-life demonstration of actual capabilities, process flow, back-end and front-end efficiencies, and excellence; you don’t walk into a car dealership and buy a vehicle without first doing your own research and test driving it.

I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all models, especially when it involves technology solutions. Procurement is like your wardrobe; you need to have an outfit ready for all times of the year. Procurement vehicles should be treated like Lego blocks – interchangeable – based on unique needs and parameters. And lastly, I don’t collaborate with vendors and organizations that force us to use proprietary platforms and exclusive processes.

I always leverage my professional network when searching for a solution or vendor and rely on their experiences to determine how they went about it, what worked, what didn’t and if they could, how would they change the original process. I also visit crowd-sourced review portals like Capterra, G2Crowd, and others so I can gain perspective from folks across multiple industries and walks of life.

Procurement can not only be incredibly complex but also intimidating and overwhelming. It requires each stakeholder to effectively communicate their business needs and requirements (variables and non-negotiables). It includes a collection of folks from all corners of the enterprise: finance, accounting, IT, procurement, operations, HR, memberships, customers (internal and external), legal, and customer service.

It works best when businesses have their own research and development arm to scout, evaluate, and recommend solutions based on our unique needs without being unhealthily influenced by marketing glossies and sales teams. And to be honest, few of us have the time to be aware of new market trends and product offerings while addressing our actual job requirements. There is just not enough time in the day.  

So what are some things that I recommend you do in order to win in the grand adventure we call procurement? Here are four easy steps:

  • Establish a research and development group within your organization by connecting folks from procurement, operations, technology, data, and customer pools.
  • Allocate time in their schedules to scout products, participate in demos, and gradually become subject matter experts.
  • Offer the opportunity to establish a knowledge base so they can share their expertise and perspective on each potential solution.
  • Allocate and distribute training dollars to ensure that each team member understands market trends, emerging methodologies, technical complexities, and ethical considerations.

Editor's Note: To help you get organized, ICMA launched ICMA Marketplace, which features over 2,000 local government products and services. With input and feedback on your procurement experiences, we can continuously improve the information with real-life experiences from users.   

This is the second post in a new blog series featuring Xavier Hughes and his views on innovation in local government. Want Xavier to provide his views on a specific topic relating to innovation and technology? Add it to our Ask and Answer page

Read his first post here: Innovation in Local Government: An Interview with ICMA Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Xavier Hughes.


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