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Blog | 06.30.20

4 Reasons Why Small Public Sector Procurement Teams Need a Better Way to Shop for Everything Right Now: COVID-19 Supplies and Beyond

COVID-19 has forced government to change the way it does a lot of things, the most profound being the way it shops for goods and services. Not just personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies or janitorial services, either. Cities, counties, school districts and even public airports are being asked to do the impossible right now: buy a whole lot more of practically everything – from technology devices and office supplies to snacks and sporting good equipment – a whole lot faster and with a lot less money.

Though schools and government buildings may be closed, classes will resume and citizen services are still being provided. That means that procurement teams are having to work just as hard as ever to secure the supplies, services and systems needed to keep government “open for business.” If we’re being real, they are actually working harder right now for a number of reasons:

  1. The sudden and complete shift to remote working and learning – and the need to digitalize all government services due to COVID-19.  Yet, there has not been an equivalent hiring surge to scale up the procurement function accordingly. In fact, some procurement professionals have been furloughed. Even with strategic prioritization of the increased purchase requests, most procurement teams – especially smaller ones – are finding it difficult to keep up with demand.
  2. Go-to suppliers are experiencing frequent out of stocks and contracted service providers are maxed out and unable to increase capacity.  With the number of rush order requests having grown exponentially, especially for products that are currently in high demand but low supply such as medical supplies, PPE and IT equipment like laptops and tablets – this is a problem. Buyers are forced to scour the market for alternative suppliers, which takes a lot of time they simply don’t have for the reason mentioned in the first point above.
  3. Budget cuts are further shrinking supplier pools and absorbing buyers’ precious time as greater emphasis is placed on securing the lowest cost possible to maximize spend capacity. Finding suppliers that can offer goods and services for a reasonable cost is a huge challenge right now, and trying to negotiate volume discounts to hit target pricing for every item is a tiresome and sometimes fruitless task.
  4. Conducting thorough market research to find the best product or service at the best price is extremely time intensive. Many public sector agencies, especially smaller ones, are still having to login to multiple platforms to shop statewide or local agency contracts, co-op contracts and the open market. Even more, many supplier catalogs are still only viewable in dense PDF documents.

Any one of these things alone would place a tremendous burden on public sector procurement teams. Together, they have proved to make the procurement process downright overwhelming, even for the most seasoned professionals. With only so many hours in the day, something ends up giving. Perhaps buyers agree to pay a higher price just to secure what their internal agency customers need to fulfill their mission. Or they might take a chance on new suppliers and place orders for seemingly available items without properly vetting them first, a highly risky move that could have grave consequences. Then again, they might do everything right – secure the requested quantities of the highest quality items at the lowest available market price – but just not fast enough by today’s standards.

That’s precisely why public sector agencies, especially those with small procurement teams, need to give serious consideration to the use of an online shopping tool like the Periscope Marketplace.

Market research shouldn’t take hours. And it shouldn’t take days to locate suppliers who have available stock of emergency supplies, IT equipment or PPE. Procurement teams certainly shouldn’t have to scour multiple websites or documents to see what’s available on contract vehicles and what’s not or manually create spreadsheets to compare the product specifications and pricing of on- or off-contract options.

Buyers should be able to login to one website to see the goods and services available from agency-approved contract vehicles, co-op contracts and other publicly-sourced contracts alongside the goods and services listed catalogs from open market vendors who may not yet be on your organization’s radar but should be. They should be able to search using keywords or a category-driven navigation tool to quickly find exactly what they need, and the results should be visually easy to compare in a side-by-side setting – just like what they would see if shopping online for groceries. Then, if your agency grants them permission to purchase from certain vendors directly from the website, they should be able to add items to their cart and checkout in a simple click-to-buy action.

In other words, shopping for the government needs to be as simple as shopping for groceries online. Time is money, and an e-commerce shopping experience such as the one offered by the Periscope Marketplace saves you both in so many ways.